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i inn 




by Ian Henderson 
with Philip Goodhart 


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 58-10032 
Copyright 1958 by Ian Henderson ir Philip Goodhart 

All Rights Reserved 
Printed in the United States of America 

First Edition 


By Mr. Richard Catling, C.M.G., O.B.E., 
Commissioner of Police, Kenya. 

Ian Henderson's book is an account of the most important 
pseudo-gang operation in the whole campaign against Mau 
Mau terrorists in Kenya. The operation was designed to ap- 
prehend Dedan Kimathi, militant head of Mau Mau, and it 

The pseudo-gang technique was not evolved in Kenya; it 
was used many years earlier in Palestine, both during the Arab 
and Jewish rebellions in that country and subsequently in Ma- 
laya against the Chinese Communist terrorists. But it achieved 
its widest measure of success in Kenya. 

'Henderson's book is confined to the single operation which 
resulted in Kimathi's capture. Yet the story epitomises the tac- 
tics used by Field Intelligence officers in the earlier days of 
the emergency, carried a step further by Special Force Teams 
led by Army, Administrative, and police officers at a later stage 
and ultimately perfected and executed with boldness, great 
courage, and outstanding success by Henderson himself. 

His account does not attempt to describe or explain how he 
was able to convert captured Mau Mau terrorists to his own 
use almost overnight. If a brief answer to this is possible, it is 
that his deep knowledge of the Kikuyu people, their language 
and their customs, enabled him to reach into their minds and 
influence their thoughts in the way he wished. He knew the 
enemy as did few, if any, other Europeans in Kenya's security 

3oth December, 1957 . 


Foreword 5 


1 A Reign of Terror n 

2 Dedan Kimathi 17 

3 Kinyanjui 29 

4 A Plan Is Made 37 


5 Unhappy Christmas 47 

6 The Force Builds Up 65 

7 The Meeting on Kipipiri 76 

8 Witch Doctor Kingori 85 

9 The Long Rains Break 102 
zo A Sharp Rebuff 111 

11 Kimathi Reacts 124 

12 A Series of Mishaps 133 

13 Technique Perfected 146 

14 The Cattle Rustlers 155 

15 Kimathi's Prayer Trees 164 

16 Operation "Wild Fig" 175 


17 His Dream at Kanjema 186 

18 The Downward Slope 202 

19 "Hot Scrum" 210 

20 Lucky Beehive 222 

21 His Final Hours 229 





EABLY IN THE AFTEBNOON of the seventh of October, 1952, Chief 
Waruhiu was shot and killed seven miles outside Nairobi. He 
was murdered in the best Chicago style: His car was forced 
to a halt by the side of the road, and three gunmen walked 
over to him and opened fire at point-blank range. The chiefs 
funeral was impressive. It was attended by several thousand 
of his fellow Kikuyu tribesmen. The new Governor, Sir Evelyn 
Baring, was there, and so was Jomo Kenyatta, then the most 
prominent African politician in Kenya. The size and eminence 
of the congregation were in part a tribute to Waruhiu's position 
and personality he had been a chief for thirty years and had 
received the M.B.E. earlier that year. In part it was also a 
recognition of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding 
Waruhiu's death. This was just one of many murders and acts 
of violence ascribed to Mau Mail, the secret, subversive move- 
ment that was growing increasingly bold. A few days before 
his death Chief Waruhiu had condemned Mau Mau. The bullets 
in his head and stomach were the terrorists* reply. 

For two more weeks the violence and rumours of violence 
spread. Then a state of emergency was proclaimed throughout 
the colony of Kenya. Within hours a battalion of the Lanca- 
shire Fusiliers flew in from the Canal Zone, and over a hundred 
prominent Africans were detained. Jomo Kenyatta, President 
of the Kenya Africa Union, whose oratorical powers had cap- 


tured the hearts and imaginations of the Kikuyu, was arrested 
in his own home. 

The Mau Mau movement, which had brought bloodshed to 
Kenya, was a blend of the ancient and the modern. It owed 
much to the spirit of African nationalism and the trade union 
agitation which was growing in the towns. It owed more to 
witchcraft and the fear of witchcraft which flourished most 
strongly in the reserve. Some Mau Mau leaders wanted to de- 
stroy the white man, others wanted to uproot every vestige of 
European civilisation. Both these elements were combined in 
this loosely knit movement, but as time went on the more so- 
phisticated agitators were replaced by men who called for the 
rejection of all Western ways. 

It was both a strength and a weakness of Mau Mau that 
it drew its support almost exclusively from one tribe. It was 
for all practical purposes restricted to the Kikuyu, but the Ki- 
kuyu are the Germans of tribal Kenya. This tribe of one and 
a half millions is noted for its devotion to education, its ability 
to work hard, and its intelligence. The tribal reserves, which 
are potentially fertile and most strategically placed, lie close 
to Nairobi and the European settlement areas. 

In the last fifty years the Kikuyu has had closer contact with 
European civilisation than any other tribe in Kenya. They pro- 
vided numerous clerks in government offices, many of the most 
experienced hands on the European farms, and the bulk of the 
workers in Nairobi, the colony's capital. If they were not the 
colony's economic backbone, they were at least its economic 
pelvis. As fighting men, however, the Kikuyu were thought to 
be negligible. Only a handful were serving with the King's 
African Rifles or the Kenya police. 

When the troubles began the congregation at many of the 
mission churches in the Kikuyu reserve fell by 90 per cent, and 
authoritative observers believe that 90 per cent of the tribe was 
prepared to give Mau Mau some support at some time during 
the emergency. Many Kikuyus were willing converts, others 
had to be dragged to the Mau Mau oathing ceremonies, Of all 


the tribes in Kenya, the Kikuyu had the greatest collective re- 
spect for the binding power of both secular and magic oaths. 
They had a collective passion for secret societies and a folk 
affection for their traditional tribal ceremonies. These ancient 
oaths and ceremonies were distorted and perverted by the Mau 
Mau leaders. Tens of thousands of once peaceful men and 
women promised to kill, cut, and burn. The taking of the oaths 
was solemnified with bestial ceremonies, which included the 
munching of human brains and intercourse with dead goats. To 
complete the atmosphere of horror, the "oathing chapels 1 ' were 
decorated with intestines and gouged goat's eyes. 

These oaths helped to bind the bulk of the tribe together 
in support of Mau Mau and to turn the tribal mind against 
civilisation. Hundreds of Kikuyu who resisted were cut to bits, 
strangled, or buried alive. Brother butchered brother with evi- 
dent enjoyment. In theory Mau Mau was anti-white, but in 
practise tie terrorists killed nearly a hundred times as many 
. Africans as Europeans. During the emergency more Europeans 
were killed in traffic accidents within the city limits of Nairobi 
than were murdered by terrorists in the whole of Kenya. 

The arrest of Jomo Kenyatta's colleagues deprived Mau Mau 
of its recognised political leaders, but this did not check tibe 
spread of terror. More British troops arrived; more battalions 
of the King's African Rifles were moved into the colony. The 
Kenya Regiment was mobilised, and the Kenya police force 
was expanded rapidly. Loyal members of the Kikuyu were 
recruited into a Home Guard. The Kikuyu reserve was soon 
speckled with armed posts. Real success, however, could not 
come quickly. Our forces were impressive, but they had few 
targets at which they might aim. The terrorists rarely moved 
or operated by day, and hardly ever attacked any soldier or 
civilia'n who had a chance to protect himself. By day all was 
usually peaceful. By night the terrorists swept over tibe reserve 
and settied areas, taking food, taking money, and taking life. 
If the security forces were often baffled by the problem of what 
to do next, so were the terrorists. They had no coherent plan 


of revolt, their objective was hazy, and their route unmarked. 
What to do, and where to do it? The Mau Mau answer was to 
take to the forest, the traditional hiding place of the tribe. 

The main section of the Kikuyu reserve was flanked by two 
huge areas of woodland on Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. 
In the past these forests had protected the Kikuyu from the 
depredations of the Masai warriors and the slave traders; in 
modern times it was the customary lair of those Kikuyu who 
wanted to escape from justice, and at the beginning of the 
emergency there were probably three or four hundred criminals 
on the run. Thus active Mau Mau supporters began to trickle 
into the woods, and the trickle soon became a flood of thou- 
sands. For the most part it was the young men, of the warrior 
age groups, who took to the forest, but the oldest was nearly 
seventy and the youngest terrorist ever captured was just 
eleven, while 20 per cent of the forest bands were women. 

At first life for the terrorists in the forest was not too un- 
pleasant. Some went in carrying bundles of their most treas- 
ured possessions. Many had brought knives, spoons, plates, and 
cups. Some carried mattresses and blankets and sheets. Sup- 
plies of food came up regularly from the reserves, while passive 
supporters in the towns sent up such sophisticated items as 
cigarettes, oil for cleaning guns, penicillin, hypodermic syringes, 
sulphur drugs, aspirin, and matches. In the first months of the 
emergency the Mau Mau discipline was so strong that a terror- 
ist in the forest who gave his money to a courier could be 
almost certain of getting what he wanted from any shop in 
Nairobi. They were always short of precision weapons, but 
some of the gangsters showed a remarkable facility for turning 
out "guns" made from odd scraps of iron piping, door bolts, 
rubber bands, and bits of wire. Sometimes, of course, these 
guns would injure the firer rather than the target. 

After the first few months, however, the life of the forest 
terrorists deteriorated. It became increasingly difficult to get 
food from the reserves. Then, in the summer of 1954, "Opera- 
tion Anvil" (the search of Nairobi) destroyed much of the 


central passive organisation in Nairobi and broke up the best 
supply pipeline. 

Meanwhile, the troops and police were learning to operate 
effectively within the forest itself. The tracker teams developed 
phenomenal skill at following gangs and eliminated many ter- 
rorists. Then the pseudo-gang technique was developed. Sur- 
rendered terrorists were formed into gangs led by young 
Europeans, most of whom had been born in Kenya. Dressed 
in rags, with faces blackened by burnt cork and boot polish, 
they roamed through the forest and accounted for still more 
gangsters. Many terrorists, impressed by the hopelessness of 
their existence, surrendered. Many were killed during intra- 
Mau Mau arguments. Many died of disease or just plain hard- 
ship. Many were killed by the security forces. By mid-igss 
three or four hundred forest terrorists were being eliminated 
each month. The hardships of the forest and the shortage of 
ammunition shattered the fighting spirit of the gangs. 

At the beginning of the emergency captured gangsters were 
often fat, bloated by the meat of stolen cattle. Many had 
watches, and some wore two suits of clothes. By the end of 
1955 the captured terrorists were lean and verminous, but the 
bushcraft of these survivors had reached a superlative standard. 
When frightened they moved at staggering speed, and some 
gangs have been known to run seventy miles through the forest 
barefoot in a single day. In the words of one policeman, "if 
you want to know what it's like, try running through seventy 
miles of blackberry patches in your socks." As food from the 
reserves became more difficult to steal, the hardcore were 
thrown back on the resources of the forest. Every edible plant 
was put to use. Much time was spent trapping wild animals 
wire from crashed R.A.F. planes made the best snares. The 
hungry terrorists would sometimes eat raw monkey or meat so 
maggot-ridden that even the hyenas would not touch it. Wild 
honey was their only sweetening, and the terrorists seemed 
impervious to bee stings. They would eat their honeycomb with 
the bees still inside. 


At times of crisis the terrorists would forego even this meagre 
diet and travel without food for two or three days at a time. 
Only one forest terrorist captured after 1955 had an ounce of 
spare fat on his body. Material hardship, however, made little 
difference to this hardcore. The soft were already dead. Most 
of those who survived had suffered at one time or another from 
pneumonia, syphilis, and other diseases. Many had recovered 
from bullet wounds, and their recuperative power was phenom- 
enal. Their city clothes had long since disappeared, to be re- 
placed by jackets and trousers of animal skin, which they would 
not take off for a year at a time. Some wore caps which they 
pulled over their faces as protection from the rain when they 
slept, but at least one gang had been known to sleep without 
blankets on the ice near the peaks of Mount Kenya. With this 
toughness went a remarkable ability to detect the presence of 
strangers and an unusual facility for covering their tracks. Some 
Mau Mau travelled on their toes, others ran on their heels or 
the sides of their feet so that they would not leave a recog- 
nisable trail. 

By the end of 1955 only fifteen hundred of these terrorists 
were left at large, roaming over an area of more than six thou- 
sand square miles. Ordinary methods of warfare were clearly 
not going to dislodge them, and they could not be left to rot. 
At the height of the emergency some sixty thousand Kikuyu 
had been confined in detention camps. At the end of 1955 they 
were being released at the rate of two thousand a month. Per- 
haps these released detainees and their colleagues in the camps 
would live in peace, but perhaps they would not. The danger 
of a resurgence of Mau Mau remained so long as any recog- 
nised leaders were still at large. Of these leaders, by far the 
most powerful was Dedan Kimathi. 



Muthiururi niethiururukaga. 

He who turns others around may also turn himself around. 

The devil that cometh out of thy mouth flieth to thy bosom. 

IF THE Kikuyu are the Germans of tribal Kenya, Kimathi was 
their Hitler. Like Hitler, he had to wait until the fabric of 
society broke around his head, but then he was able to exploit 
the convulsion with throbbing, burning oratory. Financial chaos 
and the threat of Communism gave Hitler his chance. The 
corruption of the Kikuyu tribal customs by Mau Mau and the 
flight to the forest gave Kimathi his opportunity. 

On the thirty-first of October, 1920, Kimathi Wachiuri, later 
baptised with the name Dedan, was born in the Tetu location 
close to Nyeri, the most northerly of all Kikuyu districts and 
the one that lies closest to the Aberdares and Mount Kenya. 

He was an illegitimate child, but from childhood he used the 
name of Wachiuri, his mother's legal husband, who had died 
some years before Kimathfs birth. Wachiuri had been rich 
enough to have three wives, and theirs was a large family. 
Kimathi's mother had two other sons and two daughters. 

As his grandmother lay dying in 1931 she sent word that 


Kimathi was to come to her. It was a cold and misty day. 
Kimathi, who was then only eleven, was brought into the mud 
and wattle hut where the old woman lay and received her 
blessing according to Kikuyu custom. Blind and frail, she laid 
her hand on Kimathi's cheek. With her last words she chose 
him to be leader of the house and then asked that she be turned 
so that she would die facing his bed. Finally, she dipped her 
finger in a goat's horn of water and sprinkled the liquid on 
Kimathi' s head. 

This event made a deep impression on the boy, and stimu- 
lated the superstitious inclinations that lurk in most Kikuyu 
hearts. Moreover, he believed that Ngai, the traditional god 
of the Kikuyu tribe, had guided his grandmother's hand and 
had chosen him to be the head of the whole tribe. 

At about this time he began to dream. He dreamt of lands 
where all the cows were brown, of places in the sky where 
rows of people sat on wooden benches, of death being like a 
gate which opened and shut, of rivers running uphill, of people 
standing before him in white clothes with arms outstretched, 
and of Ngai speaking to him in his sleep. He believed every- 
thing he dreamt, and his descriptions of these dreams made 
old men and women turn their heads away, for they were 
frightened of such things. 

Kimathi did not try to win the leadership of his dan or tribe 
by minding his manners. Long before his grandmother made 
her gesture he had been saddled with a reputation for delin- 
quency. When barely out of the toddling stage he was nick- 
named "Njangu" (rough and treacherous) by his playmates. 

At the age of six he went on a hunger strike because his 
mother would not give him the sort of shield normally carried by 
an adolescent apprentice warrior. He killed some goats belong- 
ing to a friend of his mother with a bow and arrow. He refused 
to carry water for her and broke her maize grinding stone. He 
refused to chase locusts away from the family crops and pushed 
his youngest sister down an antbear hole. For this vindictive 
prank he was tied to a lot of firewood by his eldest brother and 


flogged. Soon after his grandmother s death he slashed the nose 
of a bull belonging to an old man named Wachira. When he 
was tracked down he offered Wachira all his mother's clothes 
as compensation. Once he crept into a hut while the owners 
were drinking native beer and tied up the penis of a baby 

Fortunately for his family he was seldom at home, but he did 
everything possible to learn the tribal rituals and circumcision 
ceremonies practised by the older boys. He was certainly in- 
telligent, but school did not have a calming effect on him. 
There he was brought into touch with the hot controversy that 
raged between the tribe and the Christian missions over female 
circumcision. The missionaries were doing their best to stamp 
out this practice as a barbaric manifestation of paganism. The 
Kikuyu, however, regarded it as an unchangeable feature of 
their tribal tradition. As a by-product of this controversy 3, num- 
ber of independent schools were started by Kikuyu. Many of 
these soon passed into the hands of disreputable teachers, who 
dispensed a heady brew of anti-white, anti-government, and 
anti-Christian dogma to their impressionable pupils. 

At the age of fifteen Kimathi became a pupil at Karuna-ini 
school in Tetu. He was soon so good at poetry and English 
that his teacher gave him a goat. While he was at this school 
Kimathi lived with an old man, Waithangi Muthui, who paid 
ninepence every month for his tuition. Kimathf s progress as- 
tonished Waithangi, who soon looked on him as a member of 
his own family. But Kimathi could not change. He stole from 
Waithangi, sold his possessions, bartered his crops, and even 
ran him into debt One day, when Waithangi was away from 
home repairing fences, Kimathi broke into his hut and stole 
two shillings from the pocket of his raincoat When the old 
man came back he discovered what had happened and chased 
the boy away. Kimathi did not forgive or forget. Waithangi 
was one of the first men to be murdered by Mau Mau in 1952. 
He was then almost eighty years old. 

To raise money for his school fees Kimathi set up a small 


night school, where every evening he taught other youths what- 
ever he had learned during the day. He took money or paraf- 
fin or soap, which he sold at the local market. After three years 
he became a pupil at a more advanced school in Tetu, called 
Wandumbi. To meet the higher fees he spent two days a week 
wandering through the Aberdare forest collecting the seeds of 
Grevillia robusta trees, for which the Forestry Department was 
then paying a penny a tin. His seed-collecting forays into the 
forest gave him an early experience of forest life, which he 
never forgot. 

Kimathi loved traditional ceremonies, but he was willing to 
change the ceremony to suit himself. On the seventeenth of 
September, 1938, just before he was eighteen, Kimathi was 
circumcised in the dispensary at Ihururu, the administrative 
centre of Tetu location. The fact that he had not been circum- 
cised at a public ceremony according to tribal custom was soon 
discovered by the other young men, who began to laugh at 
him. In reply he challenged all those who had been circumcised 
during the same week to dance with him. The neighbours 
awaited this contest with excitement, but when the time came 
all the other young men were suffering too much to attend. 
To the cheers and applause of hundreds of onlookers, Kimathi 
danced alone. 

In 1939 Kimathi tried his hand at working. After getting 
a registration certificate from the district commissioner, he went 
to the Forestry Department in Nyeri and was hired to drive 
oxen hauling timber out of the forest. After one week he was 
attached to a Sikh forestry officer who was going on an expedi- 
tion down the edge of the reserve to Fort HaU. Kimathi was 
chosen to cany the Sikh's suitcase, but once he was safely out 
of Nyeri he doubled back with the suitcase and was never 
seen again by either the Sikh or the Forestry Department. 

Wealthier than before, Kimathi returned to his studies. His 
teacher at that time was Eliud Mugo, who later became one 
of Mau Mau's most steadfast enemies. Closing an eye to 
Kimathi's misconduct, and intrigued by his capacity to learn, 


Eliud arranged for Kimathfs entry into the Church of Scotland 
Mission School at Tumu-Tumu. Apart from a break of three 
months early in 1941, when he joined the army, Kimathi stayed 
there for two years, causing trouble, refusing to pay his fees, 
but learning fast. He was finally expelled in February 1944. 

His^ brief army career was not without incident. In the first 
week at the depot Kimathi marched up to his corporal and 
threw some ground nuts at him. Exactly a month later he re- 
ceived his first pay, which he spent on native beer. A drunken 
brawl followed. When the military police arrived on the scene 
and fired over the heads of the trouble makers, Kimathi man- 
aged to slip away unseen and spent the next two days hiding 
underneath a bed in the cook's house. 

After leaving Tumu-Tumu, Kimathi moved from job to job. 
He was variously a school teacher, a dairy clerk, an employee 
of the Shell Company, a timber clerk, and a trader in hides. 
But, as before, his career was chequered. He stole a bicycle 
from a labourer on a farm in the Naromoru district On a farm 
near Thomson's Falls he beat up an old Turkana herdsman 
and stole his money. Then, while employed as a clerk at a 
farm north of Nyeri, he appropriated some money and fled 
north to Ol Kalou. No one seemed able to catch up with him. 

In January 1949 he reappeared in the Tetu location and 
unobtrusively obtained employment as a teacher in his old 
school, Karuna-ini. Within three months he was summoned 
before the school council and charged with raping two of the 
young girls he was teaching. Once again he fled north to Ol 
Kalou, where he got a temporary job on a pig farm. There he 
lost the index finger on his left hand while grinding corn for 
the hogs. 

Despite, or perhaps because, of his lack of scruples, Kimathi 
became a popular figure with the uneducated Kikuyu he met 
during his travels. Dabbling in clandestine subversive activities 
by night, and posing as the future leader of the tribe by day, 
he gained considerable influence in the outlying areas of the 
central and Rift Valley provinces. At that time violence and 


thieving were regarded as positive virtues by the bulk of Ki- 
kuyu youth provided the thug or thief was successful. Kimathi 
was successful. 

For some time past Kimathi had taken a hand at organising 
the stewards who controlled the mass rallies in the reserve 
addressed by Jomo Kenyatta and his colleagues. Kimathi and 
his men were there to use strong-arm tactics against any oppo- 
sition, but he had listened and he had learned. On the second 
of June, 19525 having already taken the Mau Mau oath twice 
and become a leading oath administrator in the Ol Kalou and 
Thomson's Falls area, he was appointed secretary of the local 
branch of the Kenya African Union, an organisation closely in- 
terwoven with Mau Mau. Now he began to prepare for the mi- 
gration into the forest which was to follow the outbreak of 

Four months later, having first travelled deep into the Aber- 
dare forest with a party of young Kikuyu that included his two 
brothers, Wambararia and Wagura, he suddenly appeared in 
an area called Kanunga. Helped by several other men who were 
to become leading terrorists, he organised a massive Mau Mau 
oath ceremony on the banks of the Gura River which was at- 
tended by thousands of Kikuyu. That day, on Kimathfs express 
instructions, or at least with his full approval, the senior chief 
.of the Nyeri district, Nderi Wangftmbe, was brutally hacked 
to death as he walked down to the river to see what was going 

Kimathi was now formally identified by his tribal leaders as 
one of the leading oath administrators and a hue and cry began. 
He was traced to a friend's house in his own location, and 
late one night was surrounded by a party of Kikuyu tribal 
guards. He was asleep, and woke to hear them knocking at 
the door. For some minutes he did not answer, then, as the 
door was being forced, he tried to escape through the window. 
A guard grabbed him, handcuffed him, and took him off to 
the chiefs camp at Ihururu. At the camp Kimathi recognised 
one of the chiefs assistants as a Mau Mau supporter. Late that 


night the supporter returned and the two men bargained. 
Kimathi offered his bicycle in exchange for freedom. The bar- 
gain was struck. The cell door was unlocked, and Kimaihi dis- 
appeared in the darkness. He was off to the Aberdares. 

At the time he walked out of the cell Dedan Kimathi was 
thirty-two and untested. His educational attainments were piti- 
fully small by Western standards, but they were substantial 
in comparison with his fellow Kikuyu. He could add and sub- 
tract, and divide and multiply, if the numbers were not too 
large; he could write and read English a bit. At one time he 
showed a liking for American paperback cowboy stories and 
thrillers, but he had to struggle with the words, and it seems 
their lurid covers were the principal attraction. The British 
withdrawal from India had a profound effect on Kimathi, and 
he was also aware of the Egyptian terrorist activities in the 
Canal Zone. He knew of the existence of the Soviet Union, but 
the theory of Communism and the subtleties of dialectical ma- 
terialism meant nothing to him. He did, however, know the 
Bible as well as many a lay preacher. At times he seemed to 
believe that the Bible had been written especially for him. He 
carried an Old Testament translated into Kikuyu wherever he 
went. He spoke in parables, and his harangues were larded 
with allusions to and quotations from the Bible. As an orator 
he was magnetic, compelling, irresistible. In the rest of Kenya 
there were a few Africans who could have held their own with 
Kimathi in council or on the platform, but they were not in 
the forest and Kimathi was. 

He also had a plan, or at least the glimmerings of one. As 
bemused recruits poured into the forest, Kimathi would assign 
them to gangs and appoint leaders. From time to time he would 
regroup his forces, and these reorganisations were complex af- 
fairs involving as many as two thousand men. He adopted 
British ranks, and the orderly room terminology of the British 
army. When Kimathi had fled to the Aberdares he took with 
hmi a pencil, notebook, and some carbon paper. Now Kimathi 
wrote out his Mein Kampf, telling his men how they would 


take over the European farms, how they would kill all those 
black, white, or brownwho stood against them. These pages 
were torn from a notebook and passed around the gangs. These 
odd sheets of paper were the sum total of Mau Mau literature 
in the forest, and they added immensely to Kimathi's repu- 
tation. No one now doubted his authority in the land of the 

He formed two main councils, which he called the Nyan- 
darua Defence Council and the Gikuyu na Mumbi Itungati 
Association. The first was to formulate policy and appoint 
leaders for the gangs, the second would prepare the rank and 
file for the life of violence that now lay before them. Kimathi 
welcomed the steady destruction of all links with civilisation, 
and as his men forgot their past they worshipped their leader 
with increased fervour. His followers were certain he had the 
power to alter the course of rivers, to transform the ranching 
lands of the European farmers into lakes of stagnant water, 
and to lead the Mau Mau on to certain victory. 

In this exalted position death was his to command. He was 
the invincible ruler of the mountains, and no one could speak 
to him without his express permission. He dreamt dreams in 
which he saw himself as the King of Africa or the "popular 
Prime Minister of the Southern Hemisphere.'* At a public cere- 
mony deep in the jungle he bestowed himself with the title 
"K. C. A. E." to signify that he had been appointed, "by God," 
a Knight Commander of the African Empire. After that he 
called himself "Prime Minister Sir Dedan Kimathi." 

For a long time he enjoyed life in the jungle, where he lived 
in undisputed comfort. He found luxuries he had never seen 
before. He was protected by many devoted terrorists whom he 
had specially selected; he was entertained by young Kikuyu 
girls abducted from the Kikuyu reserve. He was waited on by 
countless Kikuyu youngsters who held high hopes that when 
the end he predicted became a reality they would live a life- 
time of luxurious pleasure. He chose for himself, or was given 


without asking, all the more valuable or useful items of property 
stolen on Mau Mau raids. 

He made it his personal concern to see that no other terror- 
ist achieved sufficient popularity to become a competitor for 
his supreme position. There were a few who, by demonstrating 
a particular ferocity at the time of Mau Mau raids, or by show- 
ing special qualities of leadership, gained too much popularity 
for his liking. These he "demoted," stripped of their followers, 
and sent to distant areas where they could not endanger his 
authority. If they dissented, or if they came back, he had them 
strangled with a rope and left for the hyenas to eat. His two 
brothers, Wambararia and Wagura, who entered the forest with 
him, lived a precarious life because of his determination to 
remain top dog. It was often said by his men that had they 
not been "from the same womb as he was himself* he would 
have done away with them. These two brothers derived some 
popularity in the forest from their relationship with Kimathi, 
and there was always a tendency among the Mau Mau rank 
and file to treat them with a degree of respect and ,care which 
those who were not related to Kimathi did not enjoy. When 
Kimathi realised this he foresaw the possibility that his brothers 
might in time gain enough popularity to unseat him. From that 
moment he made a point of keeping both of them well under 
his heel, never allowing them to participate in any affairs which 
might bring them into the limelight. Wagura was shot and 
killed in the forest in 1954. When news of this was brought to 
Kimathi by one of his subordinate leaders, he remarked, "Tell 
me the names of others who were killed, but never mention 
the names of my brothers." After Wagura's death Wambararia 
became one of Kimathfs servants, and for the next two years 
his sole task was to cook food for his brother. He was fat, for 
as cook he very properly made a point of looking after himself, 
but the task carried no prestige, and Wambararia, who had 
all the makings of a terrorist leader nearly as dangerous as his 
brother, never rose to any level of importance. 

But these good times were not to last for Kimathi. As the 


initiative was wrested from the Mau Mau, as more and more 
of his fanatical followers fell to the army, the police, and the 
Kikuyu loyalists, he found he could no longer convene mass 
meetings in the forest and stand before thousands of excited 
worshippers. No longer was he able to live in the comfort of 
rainproof shelters and sleep on a wooden bed with ample 
blankets sent up to him by supporters in the native reserves, 
nor did he receive new clothes and medicine from Nairobi. 

His organisation began to lose its cohesion, and the time soon 
came when he did not know where to find his subordinates, 
or even whether they were dead or alive. His control over the 
once large organisation of terrorists had always been fairly re- 
mote; now he lost touch with all but a few of the gangs. The 
"passive wing" of Mau Mau, the mass of Kikuyu in the native 
areas, in the towns, and on the farms, who had taken the oath 
and who supplied the "militant wing" with arms, food, clothing, 
medicine, and information, was gradually broken up by the 
security forces. Kimathi was thus cut off from the outside world. 
Furthermore, the forest gangs found that their raids were be- 
coming progressively more dangerous, costly in casualties, and 
unproductive in booty. Kimathi, like everyone else, had to live 
off the land. 

The effect of all this upon Kimathi was profound. He un- 
leashed his fury, not on the terrorists who were guarding him, 
for he could not do without them, but on those who had Be- 
trayed the community" by committing minor infringements of 
his rules. Eating food before it had been shared out, speaking 
in his presence without his permission, sleeping with women, 
failing to pray to Ngai these and thirty-four other lesser deeds 
all resulted in the death of the offender. Terrorists from the 
Fort Hall district were the ones who suffered most from his 
tantrums. He found fault with almost everything they did or 
did not do and strangled them in large numbers. Nothing 
pleased him more than to stand in the forest as the Mutui 
wohoro, or Dictator of Justice, and see his followers' blood flow. 
Those who were with him at this time have said that these 


executions became his sole amusement, and he arranged them 
as frequently as his own security would permit. This reaction, 
not unprecedented among megalomaniacs in times of imminent 
defeat, became more pronounced as events became worse. He 
soon gained the reputation in the jungle of being the most 
dangerous killer of them all. What some others thought of him 
is summed up in the words of a surrendered terrorist from Fort 
Hall who said, "Nobody has helped the government as much 
as Kimathi, and for that reason he should be given a salary. 
He has killed more Mau Mau than any member of the security 
forces." Of that there was no doubt. 

By the end of 1955 Kimathfs life was drastically different 
from what it had been in 1953 or 1954. Killing was his sole 
interest, and as he never found the opportunity of killing out- 
side his mountain domain, he killed lavishly within it. He was 
always thinking about pseudo-gangs. It infuriated him to think 
that some of those who had taken the powerful oaths of the 
Mau Mau, and who had once idolised and worshipped him, 
had surrendered and then come back to hunt him and his 
followers. Knowing that this had happened in some cases, he 
believed it could happen in every case and he hated everyone. 
Of his original harem he left himself with only one woman, 
Wanjiru, a nineteen-year-old Kikuyu girl from his own district 
of Nyeri. He strangled all the others. 

Yet he and his henchmen adapted themselves to the pri- 
vations and hardships of isolation in the forest with great suc- 
cess. In this cruel reversion to an animal existence, Kimathi 
outstripped all the others. As he learnt more about the forest, 
he forgot more about civilisation. He chewed skins and bones 
like a hyena; his eyes flicked about like those of a nervous 
monkey; he would only drink water as a buck or a goat drinks, 
by lowering his head to it; he never washed, and his lice- 
ridden hair grew down his shoulders until it was long enough 
for him to swat horseflies. All the time, day and night, he was 
on the alert, and his powers of sight, hearing, and smell grew 
abnormally acute. 


He had never been a brave man. Every terrorist who knew 
him well will confirm that he was one of the most timid of all 
those who entered the forest. Even when he was at the height 
of his power he ran no risks. But now he was cowardly in the 
extreme. This did not disturb his henchmen, however, for in 
their estimation "a leader appointed by Ngai," chosen from 
among thousands to lead them in the forest, and blessed by an 
old woman, did not have to be brave. They knew that with his 
instinct and intuition, and their courage and determination, they 
had little to fear. His existence was therefore dependent upon 
them, and theirs upon him, and particularly upon his inexplic- 
able ability to sense danger. Within one month of entering the 
forest in 1952 he chose his personal guard. It never numbered 
more than sixty-one. Three years later fifty of them were still 
with him. 

Yet, despite his powerful bodyguard, despite his understand- 
ing of the jungle, his wariness, and his temperament, his main 
shield of defence was undoubtedly his reputation. Everyone, 
both inside and outside the forest, knew how dangerous he 
.was. Nothing was more disturbing than the thought of falling 
into his hands. Some of his followers may have come to hate 
him, but if this was so their hate was never apparent. It was 
submerged in an abyss of terror, terror of Kimathi as an indi- 
vidual and terror of his reputed connection with Ngai, the 
supreme deity whose home, according to Kikuyu mythology, 
was the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya. 

Kimathi, in the words of one policeman, "was as elusive as 
a butterfly." But if the myth of Mau Mau was going to be broken 
once and for all, this poison butterfly would have to be caught. 



WHELE THE FUTUBE terrorist leader was being blessed by his 
grandmother, Kimathfs principal opponent, Ian Henderson, 
was toddling about just a few miles further north. A few years 
before the First World War, Jock Henderson, lan's father, had 
been sent out to Kenya by an enterprising firm of Scottish mer- 
chants. This visionary scheme for starting a flourishing seed 
trade on Kenya's fertile soil came to nothing, but Jock Hender- 
son stayed on. He liked the climate; he liked the space; he liked 
the pioneering atmosphere. He looked for gold and did not 
find it. He took part in the guerilla campaigns in German East 
Africa. He grew sisal at Thika, and he married a friend from 
Scotland, whose experiences with snakes and wild animals in 
those early days were hair-raising. They took to cattle farming 
and were nearly ruined when a visiting Swede quietly sold 
six hundred of their cattle and decamped with the money. Then 
the family moved on to a coffee farm just outside the small 
town of Nyeri. flTheir farm, which stretched almost from the 
township line to the edge of the Aberdares, ran up to the best 
game forest in Kenya. The well-known Treetops game lookout 
was built a few hundred yards from the farm's boundary fence. 
The view was superb impressive but friendly. Mount Kenya 
rose a few miles to tie east and the Aberdares a few hundred 
yards to the west. From the farmhouse one could watch the 
smoke rising from huts in the Kikuyu reserve, but there were 


not many white neighbours. Sometimes the family's European 
friends and neighbours would come up for a rumbustious tennis 
party, which spilled over the acres of lawn. Or there might 
be parties at other houses or at the club. Occasionally, Jock 
Henderson would decide to take his family and his African 
farm hands into town for a Sunday celebration, and the party 
would sweep into Nyeri, singing and laughing, on the family 
lorry. But it could have been a lonely life for a farmer's young 
son. However, although there were no white playmates nearby 
for young Ian, there were plenty of African boys on the farm. 
Ian played with them. 

And so young Henderson formed and led his first band of 
Africans, He was the warrior leader, not a distant white king 
in a distant white house. He played with them. He talked with 
them. He fought and thought with them. And he asked ques- 

Then there was the forest. At times he went in alone; at 
other times he led groups of African youngsters in a search 
for butterflies. As he grew older, they looked for more sub- 
stantial game. By the time he was approaching adolescence, 
young Henderson was a first-class sho and he was able to get 
plenty of practise. There were a dozen guns in the house. 

At the age of eleven Ian had his first ride on a motor bicycle. 
His legs were not long enough to reach the foot controls, which 
were operated by a slightly larger Kikuyu youth perched be- 
hind him on the saddle. This example of black/white co-opera- 
tion did not last very long. They crashed, and Henderson still 
carries a formidable scar on his thigh. During the Mau Mau 
troubles his former playmate was sentenced to seven years im- 
prisonment for cutting the legs off a farmer's cows. 

The farm and the forest were the strongest material influence 
on Ian Henderson's youth. At school in Nairobi he did well 
enough in School Certificate, with distinctions in French and 
Art. He was good at rugger, hockey, cricket, and long-distance 
running; he was a lance corporal in the school cadet force. It 
was a creditable, if not an outstanding, record. The Prince of 


Wales School did something to broaden his mind, but his am- 
bition was still centred on the farm and forest For a time his 
father thought of sending him to a forestry school in New Zea- 
land, but the war was still flickering on. The fighting would 
clearly be over by the time he was trained, and it looked as 
though military service would mean nothing but a dull round 
of garrison duty in Germany or Japan. 

In Kenya, however, there was an alternative to military serv- 
ice. He could join the police, and he did so in February 1945, 
just before his eighteenth birthday. In his first training tour he 
scrubbed down the cells slept in by African drunks, and from 
this he graduated to the almost equally unpleasant job of 
traffic officer for Nairobi, a city notorious for sticky traffic jams, 
inadequate parking space and bad driving. 

Every police force in the world, however, is short of men 
with a talent for detective work, and young Henderson soon 
moved from bicycle thefts to armed robbery and murder. It was 
an interesting career, though he still hankered after country 
life, and at one point he left the police to help his father on 
the farm. He was an ordinary young Kenyan, fond of sport, 
popular with his colleagues, meticulously neat, interested in 
things rather than ideas, and not much given to theorising 
about the meaning of the European presence in Africa. But 
he had one extraordinary qualification: he knew the Kikuyu 
people and he knew their language. He knew how their minds 
worked and he knew where to go to get information. This was 
of vital importance in ordinary police work. When he was still 
a junior officer eighteen houses were broken into at Nanyuki, 
a town not far from Nyeri. The local police could find no con- 
clusive clues. Henderson was sent for, and within a fortnight 
he had solved fifteen of the robberies. 

This knowledge of the Kikuyu was even more valuable when 
he was transferred to Special Branch, At last he was the pro- 
verbial round peg in the round hole, but the months that fol- 
lowed were pure frustration. His African friends were going 
bad before his eyes. When Princess Elizabeth came to Kenya in 


1932 he commanded her guard at Sagana Lodge, but most of 
the time he just watched and worried. 

Only a handful of Europeans could speak Kikuyu fluently, 
and at last he was able to act. Jomo Kenyatta was still a key 
figure, idolised by the tribe, the only Kikuyu with an inter- 
national reputation. While many suspected what his real role 
in the foundation of Mau Mau had been, the case still remained 
to be proved in an open court. There was little doubt that 
Kenyatta would be convicted if the witnesses for the prose- 
cution would testify, but would they run the risk involved? 
Every African witness knew that he was only too likely to 
lose his life, or his tongue, or his hands, to Mau Mau revenge 
squads. The preparation of the case against Kenyatta, with the 
protection of the government's witnesses, was Henderson's first 
front-rank assignment The government's witnesses all gave 
their evidence, and Jomo Kenyatta was convicted. The figure- 
head of the Mau Mau had been cut off, but the body and limbs 
lived on. 

The next few months were hectic. There were too few 
trained police officers, and all were overworked. There was 
also a substantial element of risk. On the night of the Lari 
massacre, when two hundred Kikuyu men, women, and chil- 
dren were cut down by Mau Mau terrorists, Henderson was 
ambushed and his car set on fire. In the words of one of his 
African assistants, "Mr. Henderson does not work with time"; 
on weekends, when many of his friends were off playing golf, 
he would plunge into the forests of Mount Kenya to look for 
General China, the principal Mau Mau leader in that part of 
the world. His reward was a bullet through his left arm. 

On the sixteenth of January, 1954, General China did fall 
into the government's hands. Ian Henderson was his principal 
interrogator and General China decided to co-operate. Secur- 
ing the co-operation of General China was a substantial achieve- 
ment, but this was only the beginning of a curious chapter. 
The terrorists in the forests of Mount Kenya had to be per- 
suaded to co-operate with their former leader and give up 


terrorism. An involved series of meetings and confrontations 
now took place. 

In the words of the citation of his first George Medal: 
"Between February 13 and April 10, 1954, Mr, Henderson was 
in immediate command of the Special Branch detachment as- 
signed the duty of attempting to bring about a meeting be- 
tween Government representatives, and those of the terrorists 
in the Mount Kenya area. The nature of this assignment made 
it necessary for Mr. Henderson to travel frequently into the 
forests and parts bf the reserves occupied by terrorists under 
conditions of extreme vulnerability in order to achieve the ob- 
jective." These official words mean that Henderson walked 
into the forest time after time often unarmed to parley with 
a band of half -crazed thugs. Slowly, he climbed the Mau Mau 
ladder of command, meeting leaders of increasing importance 
at each successive meeting. The negotiations were protracted, 
and the conditions were trying. Whenever Henderson or his 
colleagues reached into their pockets for a cigarette or a 
handkerchief, the terrorist leaders would suspect a trap and 
grab their weapons. 

Henderson led his party into the forest and talked for the 
government. He alone knew both the thickets of the forest and 
file thickets of the terrorist mind. 

A military mishap, for which a stray band of Mau Mau were 
responsible, broke the confidence of the terrorists just at the 
moment when it seemed that they would surrender in large 
numbers, but these negotiations confirmed Ian Henderson's 
reputation with both the government and the terrorists. In the 
words of Sir Evelyn Baring, "a number of people were giving 
us advice on what the Mau Mau would do next No one was 
right the whole time, but Ian Henderson was right more often 
than anyone else." 

The terrorists also respected him. The Kikuyu give everyone 
nicknames and Henderson was called "KinyanjuT after a Glad- 
stonian elder statesman of the tribe who had died just before 
the first war. The name Kinyanjui was not merely symbolic. 


Traditionally, the Kikuyu respect the advice of their elders. The 
power of the generation is of vital importance. It is not explicit 
like a block vote at the conference of the T. U. C., but implicit 
in the sense of the Carlton Club. The angry young men of Mau 
Mau had thrust the elders aside, but now these angry young 
men were in the forest and doing very badly. Violence had 
not been a success. Thousands were dead and tens of thousands 
were interned. The tribe was being hurt, and the elders were 
speaking out. Ian Henderson knew the elders and knew what 
they were saying. When he sat huddled up in a forest clearing 
arguing away in the terrorist patois, which he had to learn 
during the talks, he spoke not only for the white man's govern- 
ment but also for the elders of the tribe. 

By *955 &e Mau Mau front was beginning to crack badly. 
Henderson played his part in the development of the pseudo- 
gangs technique, and then went into the forest of the Aber- 
dares for the "Chm" surrender talks where he earned his second 
George Medal. Once again Henderson was the spokesman for 
the government. Once again it took weeks to climb the ladder 
of leaders. But this time he knew that Kimathi was opposed to 
the talks and was trying to sabotage them, and clearly the best 
way to sabotage them would be to cut off Henderson's head. 
The talks began to the noise of crackling explosions as gas- 
filled bamboo shoots popped in the sunlight after the rains. 
They failed when Kimathi seized the principal terrorists taking 
part. Kimathi was implacable, but many of the other leaders 
seemed to enjoy talking. They knew that they were isolated 
and they did not all like losing touch with their families and the 
main body of the tribe. As Commissioner Richard Catling, who 
has a distinguished record of Special Branch work himself, said, 
"Ian was just about the only window I had on the Mau Mau 
mind." Henderson was also the last window through which the 
terrorists could look at the outside world. Kinyanjui was their 
last telephone wire, their last link with the government, their 
last link with civilisation. 

This new eminence did not shake Ian Henderson's diffident 


manner. Even his hair seems to recede out of modesty. His slim, 
wiry body seeks the background, but his eyes are memorable. 
When discussing his own specialities, however, he has abun- 
dant self-confidence. To a direct question he will give an ex- 
haustive reply; and he assumes that everyone will listen to the 
whole answer. He combines the true Kikuyu's circuitous ap- 
proach to a difficult problem with a policeman's reluctance to 
share his secrets. He is too gregarious to be the complete lone 
wolf but he works best on the longest of long reins. He is an 
individualist with an unusual combination of quirks and quali- 
ties and an unusual charm. 

He is patient but volatile. He is exceptionally practical 
the administration of his operations was always first class but 
he could grasp and sometimes mould the mad theories of the 
Mau Mau. He has immense stamina, immense physical and 
mental energy, but he is high-strung. While driving down to 
Nairobi from the forest he was known to roar with laughter 
at times because of the release from tension. His neat bungalow 
on the outskirts of Nairobi is almost antiseptically clean, but 
in the forest he often had to huddle under some louse-laden 
shelter with his terrorists. 

Perhaps there is a touch of masochism to be found in all 
long-distance runners, and Henderson is no exception. Of one 
tense moment he has written: "It was the same feeling one had 
as a child when knocking on the headmaster's door for a caning 
a nice feeling in many ways because it was exciting, grip- 
ping and different from the dull routine of one's everyday 
It is certainly difficult to imagine how Henderson could have 
survived the mental and physical strain without a certain en- 
joyment of discomfort for discomfort's sake. But allied with 
this ability to withstand, and even enjoy, the onslaughts of 
nature and mankind is a fierce Scottish pride, a love of the 
British Empire, and a stern devotion to his own Kenya. 

As Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Lathbury said in his fare- 
well message to Special Branch, "Ian Henderson has probably 


done more than any single individual to bring the emergency 
to an end." Certainly few white men in the history of British 
Africa had shown such ability to understand and manipulate a 
tribal mentality. Would he be equally successful with the hard- 
core of fanatics? Would he be able to manipulate the fanatics? 
Kinyanjui, "the elder statesman," and his Special Branch col- 
leagues now turned their full attention to the problem of catch- 
ing Kimathi. 



Gathutha konagia mundu nfira. 

A little path is sometimes the one that leads you to the highway. 

BY THE END of 1955 only a handful" of terrorists were being 
captured each week. The fifteen hundred still at large were 
the bushcraft experts, and as their numbers dwindled the sur- 
vivors were harder to find in the six-thousand-square-mile 
forest of the Aberdares. Even the pseudo-gang leaders were 
for the most part having little success. These pseudo-gangs 
were largely made up of ex-terrorists who had surrendered. 
They were inevitably less tough, less primitive, than the hard- 
core in the forest. They had surrendered because they could 
not take it. Even the best ot the pseudo-terrorists would soon 
lose their edge that uncanny sensitivity which life in the jungle 
had given them. They developed a taste for the good food they 
saw others eating. They wanted to sleep in warm beds between 
blankets. They wanted clothes to shield them from the rain 
and cold. They wanted to drive as far as they could into the 
forest before taking to their feet. They wanted injections "to 
wash the blood 7 * when they felt ill. Above all, they developed 
a feeling of security, and with this sense of safety they lost then- 
understanding of the forest. 


Finally, inevitably, the remaining Mau Mau soon realised 
that former terrorists were being used to hunt them. They now 
took special precautions against the pseudos. Most of the sur- 
viving hardcore knew all their colleagues by sight. New faces, 
they had learnt, were dangerous. No form of disguise, however 
perfect, was now good enough. The chances of catching Dedan 
Kimathi with an ordinary pseudo-gang were remote. The in- 
telligence experts had little information about him. He and 
his bodyguard generally avoided meeting other gangs. He had 
long since stopped his own foragers and raiders from leaving 
the forest to pillage European farms. He did not want his men 
to expose themselves, and in this he was highly successful. 

It was virtually certain that he was in the Aberdares, but 
that information was not much comfort to Kimathi's hunters. 
The Aberdares rise fairly steeply from the plains of the Central 
Province, and at eleven thousand feet it looks as if the whole 
top of the mountain has been cut away with a jagged saw. 
The flat top, known as the Moorlands, is eighty miles long. It 
is a place of swamps, lakes, icy winds, and swirling mists. To- 
wards the middle of the Moorlands there is a great depression 
in the land. Here the lakes get bigger, the cold water seeps 
slowly through the tufty grass which bubbles and oozes when 
you step on it. Immediately below the Moorlands stands the 
bamboo belt. This is approximately twelve to fifteen miles wide 
and circles the whole mountain, covering an area of four thou- 
sand square miles. The old bamboo has been blown over, and 
the remains make a thick tangled mattress of dried poles. 
Through this layer new shoots have grown up. In some places 
it is so thick that only a faint glimmer of light can be seen 
when the sun is directly overhead at midday. This tangled 
interwoven mass, which stands twenty-five feet high, made an 
ideal hiding place for the terrorists, but the tropical bamboo 
is a treacherous growth. Its thin sharp leaves can cut your skin 
like a razor, and as the wind blows on the leaves a shower of 
invisible bamboo hair will fall on your skin and cause severe 
itching, while the sharp-pointed shoots and sticks are a con- 


stant menace to the traveller's eyes. Below the bamboo belt 
there is yet another belt of deciduous "black" forest. This belt 
is extremely thick in parts, and it is often difficult to see more 
than three or four feet ahead. But it is easier and quieter to 
move through than the bamboo. 

Faced with the massive problem of finding the terrorist 
needle in the vast haystack of a mountain, an expert com- 
mittee of three was set up. First there was Assistant Com- 
missioner John Prendergast, G.M., the director of Special 
Branch, and a veteran of the last forest surrender talks. This 
tall, handsome Irishman, who worked before the war for the 
Middlesex County Council, had built up a distinguished record 
of intelligence work in Palestine, Port Said, and the Gold Coast 
The second member was Superintendent Anthony Lapage, a 
square, solid, smiling man, whose father had been bailiff on 
the Duke of Wellington's estate. When Tony Lapage came to 
Kenya before the last war, he had turned from farming to the 
forest. There he had hunted for bumblebee mice and the elu- 
sive spotted lion of Kenya. More recently, he had hunted for 
Mau Mau with substantial success. The third member of the 
committee was Ian Henderson. 

They reviewed the numerous operations that had been 
launched during the past three years in an effort to catch 
Kimathi. Thousands of soldiers and policemen had taken part 
There had been sweeping operations, cordon operations, opera- 
tions to starve him into the open country, intelligence schemes 
designed to attract him towards bogus sources of supply. There 
had even been psychological operations with coloured smoke 
and recorded voices in the night. These schemes had been in- 
genious and were carried out with skill, but they did not work. 
There was no obvious way of catching Kimathi; only improba- 
ble schemes had a chance of success, and the committee chose 
the most improbable. 

They would try to seize some members of Kimathfs gang. 
They would try to convert the gangsters before Kimathi missed 
them, and they would try to persuade the gangsters to lead a 


striking force back to Kimathi. The odds against success were 
clearly enormous. The whole plan was drenched with compli- 
cations. How would contact be made with the gang? How 
could gangsters be captured without Kimathfs knowledge? 
How could they be made to co-operate quickly? Unless there 
was a solution to all these complications the effort would be 
wasted. The mere fact that this preposterous plan was backed 
by the commissioner of police, Mr. Richard Catling, and the 
commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Lathbury, 
was ample proof that everything else within reason had already 
been tried and found wanting. 

First the committee had to make contact with Kimathi's men. 
How would they do it? They would write the gang a letter. 
The problem of contact in the forest worried the Mau Mau 
as well as the security forces. Our troops had wireless sets, but 
the Mau Mau could only write letters to each other. With 
stubby pencils they scribbled notes for each other on grubby 
paper, which they posted in their letter boxes. These letter 
boxes, known only to their friends, would be holes in trees, 
cracks in rocks, or other places hard to see. 

Henderson and his colleagues decided that three identical 
letters should be written by a surrendered terrorist and posted 
in three separate parts of the forest. The letters would call on 
the gang to surrender. Previous experience gained in writing 
letters to Mau Mau leaders urging them to surrender had shown 
that if you mentioned any specific terrorist leader by name in 
a letter there would be no response. The individual concerned 
would feel that a special trap was being set for him, and he 
would go out of his way to persuade everyone in the forest to 
ignore the letter. Kimathi would not be mentioned in these 
new letters, they would be addressed to "The People in the 
Forest," but it was hoped that any such letter found in the 
forest would find its way up the ladder to Kimathi. 

After the letters had been posted an aircraft fitted with a 
powerful loud-speaker would fly over the forest, sky-shouting 
a recorded message announcing the position pf the letters. The 


leaders would not go to the letter point themselves, but if their 
curiosity were aroused they might well send one or two of their 
followers to collect the message. The sky-shouted message had 
to arouse their curiosity and had to say where the letters were 
posted, but it had to avoid giving much indication of the con- 
tents of the letters, lest the gangsters not bother to collect them 
at all. If Dedan Kimathi had not actually heard the sky shout 
himself, he would soon be told about it. A conference would 
be called. Kimathi would preside, and younger terrorists would 
be sent off to collect one of the letters. 

Provided Henderson and his colleagues could capture these 
terrorists, indirect contact with Kimathi would have been made. 
They then developed a plan for capturing the messengers. The 
ambush might have to remain hidden, motionless and silent, 
for days on end, as no one could say when the letters would 
be collected, if they were collected at all However long it 
took the messengers to arrive, the ambush party would have 
to strike so quickly that no one could escape. The escape of a 
single terrorist would jeopardise the whole venture. Once the 
messengers had been captured, Henderson and his colleagues 
felt reasonably confident that they would be able to get the 
terrorists' co-operation. Every interrogator has his technique 
for handling an imwilling criminal, and Special Branch had 
had some notable successes. 

At this point Tony Lapage and Ian Henderson went round 
to talk to a number of ex-terrorists, now enrolled in pseudo- 
gangs, to hear what they had to say about the plan. Most of 
them agreed that curiosity would drive Kimathi to send some- 
one to collect one of the letters, but no one believed that any 
of the terrorists in the forest would willingly betray their su- 
preme leader. In their view Henderson would not even have 
a chance to try to win their co-operation. There would be a 
heated gun battle, they thought, as soon as the ambush was 
sprung, and it would be necessary to shoot the messengers. 

Two more problems remained before the plan could be put 
into action. Where should the letters be planted, and where 


should the warning message be sky-shouted? Henderson and 
Lapage now went to various detention camps to talk to terror- 
ists who had just come from the forest. No one had seen Ki- 
mathi for weeks, but they did discover that in the earlier stages 
of the emergency Kimathi had shown a peculiar liking for three 
particular spots on the eastern slopes of the Aberdares. Perhaps 
he was still there. They then looked for three suitable areas 
in the region where the letters could be planted. This was far 
from easy. The points had to be suitable for ambush, they had 
to be points which could be described in detail within six sec- 
onds, the absolute time limit for any sky-shouted message. 
There would not be time for elaborate descriptions before the 
aircraft flew out of hearing range. 

For a time the committee thought about abandoning the 
sky-shouter system and dropping leaflets instead, but the cost 
would have been considerable, and Mau Mau had come to 
regard all leaflets as nothing more than "rubbish to mislead" 
them. The use of pamphlets would get the scheme off to a bad 
psychological start. 

Finally, Henderson and his colleagues picked three points 
which were so well known to the terrorists that they had given 
them nicknames. The first of these was an old Mau Mau hide- 
out used by Dedan Kimathi in 1953. In those days it had been 
the site for many important terrorist meetings, and was known 
to the Mau Mau as "Mihuro," meaning "at the bottom," or the 
seat of their deliberations. Everyone knew where Mihuro was. 
The second point was a large Mau Mau food store, long aban- 
doned, on the slopes of a small hill known as "Karathf s Mother." 
Many years ago, according to Kikuyu legend, a Kikuyu woman 
had sacrificed her only son, Karathi, at the top of this hill in 
the hope that evil spirits would be appeased and that the lo- 
custs eating her crops would vanish. The other point was an 
enormous rock, weighing some five tons, at the end of Wan- 
derers' Track, Dedan Kimathi had once been able to convince 
his gullible followers that he had put the rock there himself 
to stop the Royal Engineers building the track further up the 


mountain. The terrorists implicitly believed this ridiculous 
story, and his achievement was soon discussed throughout the 
forest. Whenever Mau Mau gangs were nearby they visited 
the rock and reflected on Kimathi's super-human powers. 

How could Henderson and his colleagues best ambush these 
points? They approached the police and army dog teams, but 
none of the dog handlers could guarantee that their animals 
would remain silent for long in the forest. They considered 
using pit snares, trip wires, and other obstacles, but there was 
no real alternative to the use of a small number of hand-picked 
police. But could anyone be sure they would remain alert if a 
terrorist messenger did not come for four or five days? It was 
decided to change tactics. Instead of ambushing all three letter 
points, the police would keep out of the forest until Henderson 
and Lapage discovered that a letter had been removed. Then, 
before the terrorists had time to bring back their reply, they 
would move up and ambush that particular point. 

This now meant that all three letters had to be so written 
that Kimathi would be sufficiently interested to reply. In normal 
circumstances Mau Mau would never reply to a letter written 
by a surrendered terrorist unless the writer said something 
about defeat. Any suggestion that defeat was imminent so in- 
furiated the terrorists that they would, given an opportunity, 
seek to disillusion the author by murdering him. The letters 
were written in a provocatively defeatist vein, saying that the 
people in the forest were doomed and that the writer would 
return to the same point in the jungle alone and unarmed some 
days later to lead the gangs into captivity. This sort of letter 
would annoy Kimathi so much, it was thought, that he would 
send some of his henchmen to kill the writer at the letter point. 
Seven days after the letters were planted so went the message 
the writer would return. This would give the gangs time to 
react to the sky shout, collect the letter, and choose the murder 

Henderson and Lapage would plant the letters at Mihuro on 
the nineteenth of December, 1955, at Karathf s Mother on the 


twentieth, and at the rock on Wanderers' Track on the twenty- 
first. The sky-shouting would be carried out on the following 
days. Three days after the planting of the letters they would 
go back into the forest to see if any had been removed. If a 
letter had gone they would return again on the seventh day 
to await all comers. Henderson and his colleagues first had to 
find a needle in a haystack, and when they found it they had 
to persuade it to melt. 

Philip Goodhart, M.P. 





Njeterera ndekinyaga. 

He who hesitates never arrives. 

AT MIDNIGHT on the eighteenth of December, 1955, Tony La- 
page, my African inspector, Gethieya Ndirango, and I left 
for the Aberdares. We had made the same journey into the 
forest often before, and as we drove along the road, threading 
our way through the scattered Kikuyu villages which lie below 
the mountain, I thought much about Gethieya. 

He had been a Kenya policeman for fourteen years and had 
worked with me for eleven of them. As Mau Mau swept through 
the Kikuyu tribe, striking terror into the lives of these normally 
peaceful people, he knew that he had become an important 
target, for he too was a Kikuyu. But, if anything, the threats 
to his life and family spurred him on to greater efforts. For 
his exploits in the forest he had been awarded the Colonial 
Police Medal for gallantry. Month after month, year after year, 
he had battled against terrorism. And now here he was, sitting 
between Tony and myself, ready to start all over again. As we 
sped along the dusty, bumpy road, he was half asleep with his 
feet up on the dashboard. When I dug him in the ribs and 


asked how he was, he gave his stock answer "On the pig's 
back, sir/' How he loved that phrase. Good old Gethieya! 

At Nyeri, a hundred miles north of Nairobi in the saddle 
between Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, we picked up three 
African police constables who were to guard the Land Rover. 
As dawn was breaking, we entered the Aberdare forest at 
Njogu-ini. There was not a cloud in the sky as we bumped 
along towards the top of the range, twelve thousand feet high. 
Before reaching the bamboo belt we stopped for a few minutes 
to have some hot coffee from a flask. How fresh and alive it 
all wasl The sun rising over the shoulder of Mount Kenya was 
warm and comforting. The air was strong and sweet-smelling. 
The song of a hundred birds promised a beautiful morning. 

As we drove higher up the track we passed elephant foot- 
prints and rhino droppings, but apart from an occasional Jack- 
son's francolin that would suddenly dart on to the track just in 
front of the wheels of the Land Rover, the journey continued 
without incident. 

Towards midday we were high up the Aberdares and could 
look back down the long falling slopes of the mountain to Nyeri, 
some thirty miles away. We were getting close to Mihuro, our 
first letter point. Finally we stopped. Quietly we told the Afri- 
can constables to sit tight and prepared to set off through the 
forest. I led the way, as I had been to Mihuro before. We made 
no attempt to conceal our tracks, because we knew that any 
attempt to hide our route might make the terrorists think we 
were interested in tricking and trapping them. If we travelled 
out in the open, they would be less suspicious. 

At the best of times it is a difficult journey. In this particu- 
larly thick part of the forest you have to crawl along the ground, 
climb on your hands and knees over fallen poles and branches, 
walk along the stronger bamboo like a tight-rope dancer, and 
thread your way across patches of dry bamboo which may 
hide deep pits. The shoots cut at our hands and legs and faces. 
Mihuro was only three miles from the spot where we left our 
Land Rover, but it took us nearly four hours to get there. We 


set to work immediately. Beside one of three dilapidated bam- 
boo shelters which had once housed the Mau Mau "Houses of 
Parliament," we scraped an area of ground about five feet 
square until the bare, brown earth was plainly visible. In the 
centre of this we put a thin bamboo stake and, after placing 
our letter inside an empty bottle to keep it safe from the 
weather, we slipped the bottle over the stake, open end down- 

We then plotted the various places where we planned to 
lie in wait, if and when our letter was removed. At least we 
were sure that no terrorist could approach the bottle through 
the tangle of branches without making a noise that we were 
bound to hear. After that we returned to the clearing. We 
knew the Mau Mau were so nervous and suspicious that if 
they saw the smallest root or stick jutting out of the ground 
beside the bottle they would imagine that a booby trap had 
been set for them. For the last time we examined the ground 
before starting the return journey. We now had to travel uphill 
all the way, an experience well worth avoiding in this type of 
country and at this altitude. 

From the moment we left the Land Rover on the outward 
journey we realised that we might well be seen by Mau Mau 
sentries somewhere along the route. Therefore, in order not to 
look dangerous, we carried no firearms. Our only weapons were 
one 36 fragmentation grenade for each of us in our pockets. 
As we climbed we thought of the long meeting in the forest 
which was bound to follow the sky-shouting. Every one of the 
long-haired, dirty terrorists would speak at length, possibly for 
hours, for or against sending anyone to the letter point. In this 
heated debate the fact that the letter had been planted by a 
party of unarmed men who did not conceal their tracks could 
swing everything in our favour. Such details had made or 
marred operations before. 

But we soon regretted our lack of firepower when we stum- 
bled on to a large herd of elephant browsing in the shade of 
the forest. No sooner had we come upon them than one particu- 


larly inquisitive young elephant ran towards us. We stood and 
sweated for this was the sort of thing that could have brought 
the mother literally down on top of us, but fortunately the 
little devil turned round and made off back to the herd after 
circling once round us. 

When we eventually arrived at the Land Rover we were 
shocked to find that our three guards had vanished. They had 
discussed matters after our departure and decided that the 
vehicle was too obvious a target for Mau Mau. Fearing a con- 
certed attack, they had taken refuge in a high tree some hun- 
dreds of yards further on. So ended our trip to Mihuro. The 
first of our letters was planted. 

That night we slept in a friend's house at Nyeri but before 
dawn the next day were well on our way up the mountain 
again to Nyina wa Karathi. We reached the slope after several 
hours' walking, to find that three bull elephants were feeding 
just outside the old Mau Mau food store where we wanted to 
place our second letter. All noiseless efforts to chase them away 
proved futile; they just would not budge. So we sat down and 
waited patiently for them to move on, but this they refused 
to do. We sat looking at them, and at our watches, until four 
o'clock in the afternoon. Then we had to leave if we were to 
have any chance at all to get back to the Land Rover before 
darkness fell. Reluctantly we abandoned the project and re- 
traced our steps. It would have been far too risky to plant the 
letter the next day. The sky-shouter would be up at dawn, and 
we had no means of contacting the pilot to postpone the flight. 
Ironically, six months and three days later, we captured a gang 
of terrorists led by a notorious Mau Mau leader named Ndungu 
Gicheru, who had, in compliance with the sky shout, spent 
two days looking for our nonexistent letter at Nyina wa Karathi. 

When we reached the vehicle we decided it was far too 
late to return to Nyeri, so we pushed out the spare wheel and 
slept in the back. By midnight the windows and canvas screens 
had a rough surface of frost on them, and the metalwork was 
so cold that it felt hot to the touch. By two in the morning we 


could bear the cold no longer, so we jumped out and spent the 
rest of the night shivering on the leeward side. 

The rock at the end of Wanderers* Track, the rock which 
Kimathi claimed he had put there, was only a matter of a few 
miles uphill from our frozen bivouac. As soon as the sun came 
over the horizon and we had thawed out, we drove on up to it 
and planted our letter with an empty bottle and stick, just as 
we had done at Mihuro. Then we set off down the mountain 
again, with Tony sitting on the bonnet photographing the game 
with his cine camera. The condition of some of the animals we 
encountered was pitiful. There were elephant and rhino with 
deep, long scars running along their bodies; there were others 
with crippled legs, and one or two with large gaping holes in 
their ears. Some Colobus monkeys had had their beautiful long 
black and white hair singed or burnt All this was the result of 
air bombardment and strafing, and, judging from the amount 
of wounded game we saw, the slaughter of animals must have 
been immense. What a tragedy that this beautiful mountain 
should have suffered from the destructiveness of manl Yet, on 
that lovely sunny day, with the wild flowers in bloom and the 
crystal-clear streams dancing down the mountainside, it seemed 
as though nature was retaliating with beauty. 

On the twenty-third of December, three days later, we went 
back into the Aberdares to see whether either of our two letters 
had been removed. By this time the sky-shouter had com- 
pleted his task. As before, the first point we visited was Mihuro, 
where we found that our letter had been destroyed by a school 
of Sykes monkeys, who had eaten all but a few fragments of 
the paper and thrown our empty bottle into the bush. We had 
to forge a new letter. Our early feeling of buoyant excitement 
had evaporated as we groped our way back to the Land Rover 
in silence. 

The next day we visited the rock. Here both our letter and 
bottle had gone, and for a moment we held our breath with 
excitement, but on looking behind the rock we were horrified 
to find a pile of empty corned beef tins. It was not the Mau 


Mau who had removed our message, but a road-reconnaissance 
unit of the Royal Engineers, who thought they had found a 
treasure for the Intelligence and had taken our letter, plus the 
bottle with our fingerprints on it, straight to the police in Nyeri. 
This was disastrous. The rock was obviously a poor bet now, 
for even if we forged another letter and left it there, no Mau 
Mau would consider visiting the place once they had seen a 
group of hungry soldiers sitting there eating corned beef. The 
rock thus joined Nyina wa Karathi in the list of failures and 
left us with Mihuro, where our prospects were far from good. 
Losing two of the three letter points within the first three days 
was tragic. Christmas passed unhappily. 

What could we do next? Early on Boxing Day morning Tony 
and I were sitting in Special Branch headquarters when the 
telephone rang. On the far end of the line was Superintendent 
John Toft, at that time the head of the police division at Nai- 
vasha. Beside the forest station at North Kinangrfp, far down 
the western slope of the Aberdares, a typical Mau Mau letter 
had been found in a cleft stick early that morning. The letter 
was addressed to "Kinyanjui," my Kikuyu nickname. It was 
written in Kikuyu and had not been translated for security 
reasons. Without a moment's delay Tony and I rushed to Nai- 
vasha to read the letter. We found that the author was a ter- 
rorist who had once held a fairly high rank in the Mau Mau. 
His name was Gati, and his letter read: 

To Sar Kinyanjui of Special Branch. 
If you find this letter please say so from an aeroplane. 
I have heard the words so wait for me on the Nyeri track 
and you will find another letter. 

It is I, GAIT. 

That the letter should have been addressed to me was not 
very surprising, for after the two series of expeditions which 
I and other Special Branch officers had made into the forests 
in 1954 and in 1955 to try to convince the Mau Mau of the 
futility of violence, I had received an endless stream of letters 


from the forest some threatening, some saying that isolated 
terrorists wished to surrender, some saying almost nothing at 
all. "I have heard the words/' Obviously the writer had heard 
the sky shout, which I had recorded on tape in Kikuyu. 

The following morning at dawn the Pembroke sky-shouter 
was up again over the western Aberdares, confirming receipt 
of the letter and saying that I would be travelling along the 
Nyeri track on the twenty-ninth of December. The weather 
over the mountain was stormy that day, and the flight buffeted 
the pilot, who reported, on his return, that he was doubtful if 
anyone could have heard our message. But whether the message 
had been heard or not, the die was cast for the twenty-ninth, 
and the date could not be changed. 

From the place in which the letter was found it was obvious 
that by "Nyeri track" the writer meant the Fort Jerusalem 
track which winds steeply up through the Aberdare forest from 
the timber niills at North Kinangop to the frost-worn Moorlands, 
then across the Moorlands towards Mihuro on the eastern side, 
before finally dropping down to Nyeri. There is no other track 
over the Aberdares from the west to Nyeri. 

In dry weather the Fort Jerusalem track is bad enough and 
passable only if there have been no landslips, but in the rainy 
season, or after a heavy storm, no vehicle of any sort can get 
through. Gati could hardly have chosen a worse meeting place. 
Having heard about the terrific storm from the pilot, we all 
looked forward to a great deal of walking. It is always necessary, 
when travelling along this track in wet weather, to get out and 
prop up one side of the vehicle, while the driver edges it across 
the slippery patches of ground where it is in particular danger 
of capsizing. 

As we expected, the twenty-ninth was upon us before the 
forest had dried out As we began climbing, with the Land 
Rover strained in first gear, low ratio, we slithered about buck- 
ling the wings of the vehicle against the banks, time and time 
again, and showering everything, including ourselves, with 
mud. If the track was as bad as this on the slopes of the moun- 


tain, where the water could drain away, it would certainly 
be quite impassable when we reached the flatter, marshy 

And all the time we were looking for the promised letter. 
On and on we rumbled, stopping only when the windscreen 
was so covered with mud that we could not see through it. We 
had climbed to about eight thousand feet when we came upon 
the message. It was tied with forest string to a short bamboo 
stick standing upright in the middle of the track. 

There it hung, and this was what admirers of Hemingway 
would call "a moment of truth." My thoughts skipped, grass- 
hopper-style, but they always came back to one theme that 
I was walking straight into an ambush, where every advantage 
of attack and retreat would lie with the terrorists. I probably 
wouldn't even know where the bullets had come from. 

We stopped the Land Rover about thirty yards short and 
sat quietly for a moment or two. No one could be seen. I got 
out and walked up to the bamboo stick. Once again we were 
all unarmed so as not to frighten anyone who might be watch- 
ing us from the forest. But it was now too late to think about 
guns and protection. As I untied the string round the message 
and lifted it from the stick there was still no sound in the forest. 
I read it. It was a short message. All it said was, "Return here 
again on January first" This, oddly enough, was excellent news. 
Mau Mau do not normally put in an appearance when you 
first arrive at a meeting place. They lie up in the forest nearby 
to see how you behave, whether you are armed, how many 
people come with you, and whether your pockets bulge, for 
that, in their eyes, is a sure sign that you are carrying grenades 
and planning to kill them. If they do in fact show themselves 
at the first meeting, you have every reason to suspect that 
something is wrong. On the other hand, any delay or hesi- 
tation on their part, any postponement of an arrangement to 
meet, is usually a sign that they really do want to meet you, 
but are frightened to come out before they have sized you up. 

Knowing that we were being watched, I scribbled a reply 


saying we would be back on the first, put it back in the deft 
stick, lit a cigarette, and walked as casually as possible back 
to the Land Rover. We drove on up the track for some distance 
before we could find a place to turn round. On our way back 
we carefully edged our way round the stick to avoid knocking 
it over. 

On New Year's Day we were back again. This time I brought 
with me my wife's Arab-silver bracelet which I had bought at 
Malindi on our honeymoon. Since the outbreak of the emer- 
gency I had taken it with me, tied firmly to a handkerchief, 
on most of my trips into the forest. I was confident that it would 
bring us luck again. It was our fetish. 

Once again we stopped the Land Rover about thirty yards 
short of the bamboo stick, which was stuck in exactly the same 
place. Wedged in the cleft was a government surrender pam- 
phlet, on the back of which was written: "Wait, we are here." 
What would the next few minutes bring? For almost half an 
hour we walked up and down between the stick and the Land 
Rover. We smoked, we talked, we waited. No one's hands went 
into his pockets; no one moved suddenly; no one stared into 
the forest. We were so keyed up that we found it difficult to 
keep still for more than a few seconds. For want of something 
better to do, we drew lots to see who would be the first to be 
boiled in a Mau Mau tub. 

Then we all heard a faint rustling in the forest to our left. 
Straining our ears, we could hear the noise moving closer and 
closer. TTiey were comingl We stopped talking, and our hearts 
began to beat faster. (It was the same feeling one had as a 
child when knocking on the headmaster's door for a caning-a 
nice feeling in many ways because it was exciting, gripping, 
and different from the dull routine of one's everyday life.) A 
feeling of expectancy is always pleasant; when this expectancy 
is coupled with a little risk or anxiety it is even more pleasant. 
But still no one looked at the forest. 

Seconds later two Mau Mau terrorists appeared about twenty 
yards away on the fringe of the forest One was dressed in a 


reddish-brown bushbuck-skin coat and an old, heavily patched 
pair o long black trousers. The other wore a monkey-skin jacket 
and soft hyrax-skin trousers. Their hair was long and dropped 
over their faces. It was plaited, and the many plaits jutted out 
at all angles like the quills of a porcupine. (This plaiting of 
hair, incidentally, was a characteristic of all forest terrorists; 
plaiting made it easier for them to see and pick out the great 
numbers of lice which infested their heads. ) 

There, on the fringe, they paused to look at us, the one in 
the lead crouching down to peer through a thick bush. After 
studying us for a short while, both jumped quite boldly down 
the bank on to the track and started towards us. I went for- 
ward to meet them and, as was customary, shook hands with- 
out saying a word. There was a silence for a minute or two as 
they turned to look suspiciously at the Land Rover and then 
at my trouser pockets. Seemingly satisfied, one of them raised 
his arm and, pointing at the forest above, exclaimed: 

"Ndi o haria no ngumenyaga niwe Kinyanjui [Even from 
up there I knew you were Kinyanjui]." 

"How?" I asked. 

"Because I saw you in the Chinga forest in May during the 
talks," he replied. (This was the last of the unsuccessful sur- 
render conferences.) 

Feeling unexpectedly comforted by this news of our having 
met before, I told the man in the bushbuck coat, who was 
clearly Gati, the leader and letter writer, to fetch any other 
terrorists who might be waiting nearby. He assured me that 
they were alone. Both were carrying long double-edged simie, 
or Kikuyu swords, which dangled from a strap over their 
shoulder; both smelt dreadful they had not washed for some 
months but neither possessed a gun. 

I beckoned them to sit down to talk, and after they had 
studied the Land Rover closely for a second time, we moved 
over to a patch of grass and began what turned out to be a 
three-hour conversation in their native tongue, throughout 
which they watched our every movement with extreme sus- 


picion. Needless to say, this feeling was mutual, and our eyes 
kept as close a watch on them. 

At first the conversation moved jerkily. For many minutes we 
talked pointiessly about the state of the track and the damage 
it had done to our Land Rover; about Longonot and Eburru 
Hills, which we could see far away down the mountain in the 
distance; about the smell of petrol from the Land Rover which 
was so alien to our two friends that it caused them to screw 
up their faces in disgust and spit on the ground. All the time 
we were sizing each other up. All the time we were growing 
more used to each other. For this first conversation with Gati 
and his companion, Hungu, was not only the end of the begin- 
ning of our scheme, but the beginning of the end of Dedan 
KimathL It was the key to the ultimate success of our whole 

After some time I said I was going to have a cigarette and, 
as they watched with renewed suspicion, I took a packet from 
my pocket As a gesture of friendliness I pulled two cigarettes 
out of the neatly packed rows, placed them on the lid of the 
opened packet, and offered them to our unusual companions. 
Instead of taking the two cigarettes I had offered them, they 
dug their fingers deep into the rows and pulled out two others, 
obviously determined to avoid touching anything I had chosen 
for them in case if contained some urogi or spell which would 
endanger them. But as time passed, as we chatted on and the 
conversation ranged over a score of irrelevant subjects, the first 
tension began to subside, and in a more relaxed atmosphere 
their reason for writing to me gradually emerged. Gati, at one 
time the so-called division general quartermaster of the two- 
thousand-strong Mburu Ngebo Mau Mau army, told their story, 
while Hungu periodically nodded in agreement 

It seemed that they had been checking their game snares on 
the Moorlands near Rurimeria hill on the eleventh of December, 
when they had suddenly and unexpectedly come face to face 
with Kimathi and his powerful bodyguard. Now Hungu had, 
long before, been Kimathi's prisoner and had escaped while 


awaiting eighty strokes with a lash for the serious Mau Mau 
offence of having sexual intercourse with a female terrorist 
when he was not a privileged leader. He knew he would be 
killed, if caught again, for the even graver offence of escaping. 
When he saw Kimathi's men, therefore, he ran as he had never 
run before. 

Gati had not known of Hungu's mistake until that moment 
and was completely taken aback when he saw his companion 
run for dear life. But his mind worked fast. He knew that 
Kimathi believed in guilt by association. He knew that Kimathi 
would suspect them both of being pseudo-terrorists or govern- 
ment spies, and that he would be strangled if he was caught. 
He realised that his only hope also lay in running away, and 
so he fled. Both men escaped from Kimathi's pack. By sheer 
luck they met again several hours and several miles away- 

They knew that Kimathi would try to hunt them down, as 
indeed he did, so our two fugitives had travelled on for two 
days and two nights until they located the powerful gang of 
another Mau Mau leader named Chege Karobia, from whom 
they sought protection. Chege agreed that they were not trai- 
tors, but he would not allow them to join his gang. He knew 
that if Kimathi heard of it he would be blamed for not send- 
ing them back for trial And Kimathi was dangerous. He had 
people strangled for far lessl 

Dispirited and frightened, Gati and Hungu left Chege and 
went into hiding on their own. But as the days passed their 
fear of Kimathi became an obsession. They became too fright- 
ened to sleep; they imagined the ghastly consequences of being 
captured by Kimathi's men. They were desperate, hunted by 
Mau Mau and the security forces alike. 

Then suddenly on the twentieth of December they heard 
the drone of an aeroplane over the Aberdares. The sound came 
closer. In their own words, The aeroplane spoke. It said we 
could write a letter. We knew it had been sent by God to save 
us, so we wrote a letter and put it beside the military camp 
below North Kinangop on Christmas night when all the troops 


would be having a party, and nobody would be out hunting 

"Why didn't you put your letter where the aeroplane said?" 
I asked Gati. 

"We did not hear any place mentioned, we only heard the 
plane say we should write a letter." 

The stormy conditions on the Aberdares had distorted the 
sky-shouted message to such an extent that only odd words 
of it had been heard. 

I asked Gati why he had addressed his letter to me, and 
was told that "as no other European speaks Kikuyu from an 
aeroplane" he was sure it couldn't have been anyone else. After 
hearing their story I Disked the two of them exactly why they 
had come to us that day. 

"Before Kimathi lolls us," they said, "we thought we had 
better surrender." 

Tony and I summed up the situation. We had two sur- 
rendered terrorists on our hands, and both had fallen out of 
favour with Kimathi. On the other hand, not a single person, 
apart from ourselves, knew they had surrendered. In fact, there 
was every likelihood of Kimathi hearing that they were not 
pseudo-terrorists when he next met Chege Karobia. After all, 
they would not have gone openly with their story to Chege if 
they had been traitors. Good use could be made of them, but 
we had to try to prove to the Mau Mau that they were still 
active in the forest. Otherwise their absence would compromise 
them and make them useless to us. 

In the next few days we talked a lot to our two friends, 
until their fear of us had disappeared and their outlook on 
life began to change. We showed them the reserves so that 
they could see how Mau Mau had been eliminated. We took 
them up in helicopters. We told them what we knew about 
their own past activities in Mau Mau so that they would ap- 
preciate that might, as well as right, lay with us. Then we put 
them back into the Aberdare forest again and met them every 
few days to test their reliability. In the meantime we returned 


to Mihuro to see if our forged letter had been removed, but it 
had not. 

All the time that Gati and Hungu were in the forest they 
were afraid that Kimathi would find them. To guard against 
this happening they kept very much to themselves and avoided 
all the places where they knew other gangs had their hideouts, 
We found them to be honest about their movements, and they 
were always punctual in their meetings with us. Soon we were 
completely satisfied with their trustworthiness and issued them 
pistols. This gave them new confidence, and they began to 
move more widely about the forest. All the time the task for 
which they were being prepared was developing behind the 

Once we were certain that our guns were in safe hands, we 
started to make Gati and Hungu popular with the other ter- 
rorists. We sky-shouted a message over several parts of the 
Aberdares, claiming that both were badly wanted criminals 
and offering six hundred pounds to anyone who provided in- 
formation leading to their capture. We made a point of keeping 
Gati and Hungu out of the forest when the sky-shouter broad- 
cast this message, for they would have turned white at the 
thought that we were encouraging people to run them down. 
We did not keep this secret from them for long, however- 
only long enough for us to get proof of the reaction of the 
terrorists in the forest. The effect of our hue and cry was dra- 
matic. Within a few days Gati and Hungu became heroes. Obvi- 
ously they must have committed some awful crime or the 
government would not have put such a high price on their 
heads. Everyone wanted to meet them. Not only had we 
boosted their reputations to dazzling heights, but we had even 
provoked Kimathi into changing his opinion about them. He 
was now anxious to anoint them with fat, for they were the only 
Mau Mau whose heads were worth as much as was his own. We 
discovered this from the interrogation of a terrorist named 
Gakoni, who was wounded and captured by a patrol of loyal 
Kikuyu guards while stealing food in the reserve. He had been 


with his gang leader when a letter had arrived from Kimathi 
calling upon everyone to locate Gati and Hungu, for they had 
done great deeds. This was just what we wanted. All was well, 
provided that no one captured them and claimed the reward! 

To this day I think it was a miracle that out of all the Mau 
Mau in the forest it should have been Gati and Hungu who 
walked into our hands on that New Year's Day. Throughout 
the first three years of the emergency I had been in contact 
with many hundreds of Mau Mau. I met and interrogated 
many who had surrendered. I met captured terrorists shortly 
after they had come into our hands. I met terrorists at the 
moment of their capture, and I met terrorists in their hideouts 
during surrender talks. To me they were all alike-they all had 
the same fanaticism, the same sullenness, the same suspicions, 
and the same violent hatred of anything not in tune with their 
life inside the forest. Even those who surrendered because they 
could not stand the hardships of forest life cherished warm 
memories of their semi-animal life in the jungle. Over and 
above all this, they all seemed to share the same fears and su- 
perstitions and to possess an arrogance and a lust for killing, 
which for them was really a form of entertainment. I had not 
met one terrorist who did not justify this assessment to a greater 
or lesser degree. But for the first time, on that New Year's Day 
I found an exception to this rule Gati. He was basically differ- 
ent from all those who had come before him and from all those 
who came after him. He was quite open about his life as a 
terrorist. He repented, but he asked for no mercy. He was in- 
credibly polite and soft-spoken. To tell a lie was, in his ears, a 
most terrible thing. Above all else he was utterly fearless. 

Gati had been a carpenter-handyman on a farm in Kipipiri 
before the emergency and had been sent back to the reserve 
with the other Kikuyu kbourers in the area when the trouble 
began. But he had no roots in the reserve and few friends. 
When the move to the forest began there was little to hold 
him back, though he was older thai most of the recruits for the 
forest gangs. 


Inside the forest his abilities were soon recognised. He be- 
came the leader of a gang of two hundred, and as quarter- 
master general his special responsibility was stealing food from 
European farms. He had been an efficient gang leader but he 
was never a fanatic and did not, in fact, take any Mau Mau 
oaths until his career as a leader was under way. 

Towards the end of January we began to tell our two friends 
from the mountain, as they liked to call themselves, about our 
plans for catching Kimathi. They were quite enthusiastic. We 
did not have to introduce them gradually to the idea that Ki- 
mathi was the root of all evil in the jungle. That had already 
become obvious to them. 

Yet there was more to their readiness to help us than that. 
Gati and Hungu had seen how the "white enemy" they had 
been taught to hate had come to meet them unarmed and then 
given them guns with which to protect themselves. This con- 
trast was so great, so traumatic, that they felt they now had 
to offer their lives to their old enemies. They realised that Ki- 
mathi had kept the Mau Mau in the forest by lies. They had 
been cheated, they thought "Ngai," they insisted, "had created 
a new magic. The forest would become a den of plague/' 

The time was ripe for us to get together to discuss our next 
step. How could Kimathi be eliminated? Hour after hour, day 
after day, we probed, and studied, and listened to everything 
Gati and Hungu had to say. They were now our most expert 
advisers, but it was clear that there was no easy road ahead 
for us. Kimathi was far too cunning to fall easily. Even if our 
two collaborators could merge with his gang without losing 
their lives, they would not be allowed to come face to face 
with him until they had first been screened, searched, and 
questioned by his henchmen. 

In the whole forest there were only two terrorists who were 
allowed to meet Kimathi without first being screened by his 
guards. They were Kahiu Itina, who led a gang some thirty 
strong in the northern Aberdares, and Chege Karobia, a close 
friend of Kimathi, who led a group of terrorists in the western 


Aberdares. Chege was the leader from whom our two men had 
sought refuge after their flight from Kimathi on the Moorlands. 

We now knew for certain that we would have to have the 
support of members of Kimathi's own gang before we could 
account for him. It had to be an inside job, as no one else, apart 
from Kahiu Itina and Chege Karobia, had access to him. We 
were now faced with the question of whether Kahiu and Chege 
or Kimathi's own bodyguard would be easiest to locate. Our 
two collaborators told us that it would be almost impossible 
. to trace Kimathi's gang. One could search the jungle for months 
and never set eyes on them. By far the best course was to hunt 
for Kahiu Itina and Chege Karobia, both of whom would know 
where Kimathi was hiding and how best he could be dealt with. 
Once either one of them was in our hands, the jump to Komathi 
would be a short one, or so we thought. 

But even the task of locating Kahiu or Chege was not going 
to be an easy one. They too could be literally anywhere on the 
six thousand square miles of the Aberdares, and the fact that 
Gati and Hungu had met Chege after their flight from Kimathi 
on the Moorlands did not mean that they knew where he was 
and could go back and find him again. 

We asked Gati what he thought about our letter scheme. 
Would Kimathi send any of his men to a letter point like 
Mihuro? He roared with laughter. "Kinyanjui/* he said, "that 
man is not a human being. If he heard of anything like that 
he would go many miles away. Even if you put thirty rifles 
there and told him he could have them, he would leave the 
area with great speed." 

This now showed us the futility of planting more letters or 
of sky-shouting once again. We knew that all the elaborate 
plans we had made for the hunt for Kimathi were useless. We 
had not kept abreast with the times Kimathi had changed a 
great deal since the days when the ex-terrorists we questioned 
had known him, since the days when he would have tried to 
murder anyone who wrote to him and invited him to surrender. 
Still, our scheme had not been entirely unproductive, for, some- 


what indirectly, it had brought Gati and Hungu into our hands, 
and they had furnished us with up-to-date information about 
the changes that had taken place in the jungle. 

On the fifteenth of February two terrorists were wounded 
and captured while trying to steal sheep from a farm in the 
country west of the Melawa River, which flows down the north- 
western side of the Aberdares. On being questioned about Gati 
and Hungu, they told us that, as far as the terrorists knew, both 
our friends were still very active in the forest. One said that 
he had heard that Gati had murdered three policemen in 
Kiambu and was now the subject of a hue and cry for six hun- 
dred pounds! The other insisted that he had received a letter 
from Hungu only ten days before, saying he was in the Eland 
Hill area at the northern end of the Moorlands. This was all 
pure invention, of course, and one did not have to look far for 
a motive. Nevertheless, between the bluff and the lies there was 
an element of truth, and we were extremely pleased to know 
for certain that all was well in the forest for our two men. 



Murunguru utuhaga na ime. 

The bushcat slaps in the dew. 

The early bird catches the worm. 

OUB IMMEDIATE AIM now was the capture of either Kahiu 
Itina or Chege Karobia. Neither of our two men had any doubt 
that they would be able to merge with either of these gangs 
and speak to their leaders once they were able to find them, 
nor did they consider that either would deny them information 
about Kimathi once we had them in our hands. But how were 
we going to capture them? 

"You will know we are dead when you find your pistols in 
years to come/' said Gati. 

We realised all too well that our two friends could do very 
little alone against such powerful opponents. From that moment 
we set out to build up our force, which we aimed to do by 
joining, and then capturing, small Mau Mau gangs. Meanwhile, 
we decided to avoid Kahiu Itina and Chege Karobia, and 
Kimathi as well, until we had a minimum of twelve hardcore 
terrorists on our side. Twelve, we estimated, would be adequate 
for our purposes, provided they carried sufficient firepower. 


Our first move in this new direction began on the twenty- 
eighth of January, 1956, exactly four weeks from the day when 
Gati and Hungu came into our hands. Before dawn Tony, 
Gethieya, and I were making our way up a narrow game track 
in the Melawa Gorge. As only a terrorist could guide us in the 
darkness, for they could see surprisingly wtell at night, Gati 
was in the lead. We were worried about being trailed and 
identified by some Mau Mau foraging gang returning to the 
forest after a raid into the wheatlands below, so as we travelled 
along Hungu was in the rear, threading back the blades of grass 
every few yards to mislead anyone who might try to follow. 
Our faces and arms were blackened, and we wore the custom- 
ary terrorist uniform of animal skins. We had specially made 
wigs of terrorist hair, but these fitted so firmly over our heads 
and made us sweat so much that we pulled them off in the 
darkness and carried them along in our hands, just as an Ameri- 
can Indian would have carried the scalp of his victim. 

Gati was going to take us to a secret path in the forest often 
used by terrorists crossing the Melawa Gorge. Tony and I were 
going to wait by the path, ready to intercept anyone who came 
along, while Gati and Hungu went on to comb the forest south 
of the river. Some weeks before they had left two small gangs 
there searching for a suitable place to build an underground 
food store. Our two friends were confident that these gangs 
would still be in the area, as much grain was ready for reaping 
on the European farms in the valley below, and this was a 
powerful attraction to hungry terrorists. Then again, no terror- 
ists would think of constructing something fairly permanent like 
a food store if they were not planning to stay. Our friends 
were sure that if any of the terrorists did succeed in getting 
away, they would run right into our ambush. 

As we approached the edge of the Moorlands the first glim- 
mer of dawn was appearing in the east, and we hurried across 
the open grassland as fast as we could to try and reach the 
thick forest before there was enough light to show us up. We 
were wet through from the dew and the frost on the grass, but 


we were still sweating. The secret path was barely visible in 
the half-light when we reached it It ran through thick decidu- 
ous forest where falling leaves had given the ground a soft 
mulchy layer. It was a natural escape route for a fugitive dark 
and thickly hemmed in, reasonably flat to allow for speed, 
noiseless to tread on and the continuous shower of leaves fall- 
ing from the trees would soon hide any terrorist tracks. 

While Gati and his companion set off down the hillside on 
their own, Tony, Gethieya, and I checked our Patchett guns 
and lay down in ambush positions beside the track. The day 
passed slowly without incident, though we were bitten merci- 
lessly by ants. Several times we heard a rustling of the bushes 
nearby, but each time it turned out to be some little forest 
animal scampering about in search of food or on its way to 
water. Once a beautiful little red forest duiker came along the 
track and passed us unsuspectingly. The first feeling of excite- 
ment began to wear off, and by evening we were beginning to 
get cramped and restive. As the sun fell away behind the hori- 
zon, teams of Colobus monkeys sounded their good-nights in 
the low, rolling, guttural call which echoes eerily for miles round 
the forest. When the Colobus had retired, the birds became 
quiet, and to mark the end of day came the excited cadde of 
the partridges, who always seem to leave their homecomings 
till too late. 

Suddenly, as we lay in silence, there was a low whistle, fol- 
lowed a few seconds later by another. For a moment I won- 
dered whether it was a terrorist signal, and I clutched my gun 
more tightly. Then we heard it again, this time a little louder, 
and I thought that it must be Gati, who knew where we were 
lying. He was probably afraid to walk towards us in case we 
should make a mistake and shoot him. I whistled back and then 
listened again. This time my whistle was answered by two short, 
sharp whistles. Yes, it was Gati all right 

His dark, stocky form soon appeared. He was alone. With- 
out a moment's hesitation he walked over to where I was lying 
just as though he could see me from a distance, and, bending 


down, put out his hand for me to shake. I could feel immediately 
that his wrist and fingers were covered with congealed blood. 

"Kai niatia [What is it, Gati]? Where is HunguP" 

'There is nothing bad. They are sitting back there, and 
Hungu is guarding them," he replied, pointing down the path. 
I breathed a sigh of relief. 

In no time Gati was leading us back through the pitch-dark 
forest, and within a hundred yards we came upon Hungu. He 
was standing, feet apart, pistol in hand, over the prone bodies 
of four Mau Mau who were handcuffed in pairs and lying face 
downwards on the ground. 

It seemed that shortly after our two collaborators had left 
us early that morning they had come to the banks of the 
Melawa River. They had followed the river downstream for 
nearly three miles before they found a place where fragments 
of plucked leaves were lying on the bank. Mau Mau often used 
these to cover the river stones and thus avoided leaving muddy 
marks on them when drawing water from the middle of the 
stream. From that point they had tracked the gang through 
the forest for a long way. They had seen where the gang had 
rested, where one terrorist had branched off to examine a hollow 
in a tree for honey, and where, eventually, the gang had taken 
extreme precautions to cover their tracks. This was one of the 
arts which the remaining hardcore terrorists had perfected. It 
involved putting the whole weight of the body on to one side 
of the foot so that no toe or heel marks would be noticeable. 
When they ran through long grass a thin stick would be used 
to thread the blades back every few paces. Once a gang began 
covering its tracks, a technique which Mau Mau referred to 
with justifiable pride as kuhitha makinya, or "to hide the feet," 
only the most expert jungleman could follow them, and that, 
in my experience, only meant Mau Mau of the same calibre 
as the hunted. 

Suspecting, because of these precautions, that the hideout 
was near, Gati and Hungu waited until the mists thickened 
in the valley, for they knew that only then would the gang 


light a fire. When the mist was thick and swirling they quietly 
moved downwind in the hope of smelling the smoke. And that 
was exactly what directed them to the hideout 

Our friends crept up on their hands and knees to within 
ten yards of a gang of five terrorists. Two were asleep on the 
ground, a third was sitting with his head resting on his knees, 
and the two others were preparing to cook some buck meat 
over the smoking fire. The attack was launched so quickly 
that all the terrorists had been able to say was, "Noguo, noguo 
[That's it, that's it]." But while Hungu was busy handcuffing 
them, one had jumped to his feet and tried to escape through 
the dense forest. Gati fired at him. Two shots went astray, but 
the third bullet cut into his thigh and knocked him over. For 
a moment he lay there, then he rose again and plunged through 
some bushes, but a few seconds later another shot hit fa'rn in 
the back of the neck, killing him instantaneously. Gati searched 
him quickly for arms and documents, getting blood all over 
his hands. Then he led the party round in a long detour to our 
rendezvous. The journey was uphill all the way and took most 
of the day. 

We moved on immediately, without waiting for the dawn, 
for the open Moorlands had to be crossed again and we wanted 
to be out of sight of terrorist eyes by dawn. As we trekked back 
nobody said a word until one of the prisoners turned to Hungu 
and asked him to remove the handcuffs, as they would have 
no hope of escape if a wild animal were to charge while they 
were manacled together. 

T[ did not harvest you to plant me," Hungu retorted, and the 
journey continued, with only the soft thud of our feet breaking 
the quietness of the night 

The newcomers were brought all the way back to Nairobi, 
where we set up a base camp called "Mayfield." There we 
began the tedious task of winning their support and confidence. 
Like all Mau Mau from the heart of the forest, they were as- 
tonished by the ordered flow of life outside, where there was 
now little evidence of an emergency. They knew of the dam- 


age that terrorism had wrought in their tribal reserve. Now 
they could see the spectacular progress made by government 
in its efforts to rehabilitate the Kikuyu. 

By showing them the peaceful conditions in the reserve, we 
shattered to smithereens their ridiculous notion that the Mau 
Mau would win. We then embarked upon a deflating campaign 
designed to convince them that they were not the tough, super- 
human fighters they thought they were. We took them to a rifle 
range and showed them what poor marksmen they were. We 
took them up in a helicopter where, by cutting the engine and 
dropping fast, we made them decidedly anxious to get their 
feet on to solid ground again. 

When their arrogance had vanished, education began. There 
were endless hours of patient discussion in which the futility 
of terrorism and the malevolence of their leaders had to be 
emphasised and re-emphasised. We explained how the leaders 
had perverted the tribal rituals and oaths; we explained why 
and how the leaders were debauching the rank and file. We 
described the appalling suffering which Mau Mau had brought 
upon the tribe, and the effect of this upon the young children 
who had been made parentless by Mau Mau violence. The 
methods of conversion were many, but the key to their success 
was kind and gentle handling. Our prisoners were fed well, and 
they were treated well. Another vital factor was, of course, the 
presence of Gati and Hungu, who, as Mau Mau themselves, 
were able to argue with greater effect than any white man. But 
of all the many factors to which their conversion can be at- 
tributed, the most telling was the freedom they were given 
from the moment they were brought out of the forest. While 
they were watched discreetly by Gati, Hungu, and ourselves, 
they were never impounded as prisoners. They retained the 
weapons they had carried in the forest and were free to roam 
about our camp with them. This was a risky business, but it 
was the only means of testing their loyalty arid we always felt 
it was better to establish this, as far as one could, while out- 


side the forest, and before we placed ourselves at their mercy 
inside it 

It was not very long before they were sufficiently indoctri- 
nated for our purpose; in nine or ten days we saw a marked 
difference. But on no account would we ever let them wash or 
change their forest clothes, as it was important that physically 
they should remain in the same state as they were when cap- 

By the end of the first week in February we were confident 
that we had six collaborators, and back to the Aberdares we 
went Meanwhile one of the newcomers had told us about a 
Mau Mau meeting scheduled to take place on the eighth of 
February beside a stream called the Magomboki. As a result 
our six terrorists were sent into the Kipipiri forest on the night 
of the seventh with orders to attend the meeting. We did not 
want them to capture anyone, but we hoped their attendance 
would prove that they were still in circulation and that this 
would pave the way for subsequent operations. 

It rained heavily on the eighth, and we wondered how much 
this would hamper the conference. The four new boys roamed 
about the Magomboki stream all day, but nobody put in an 
appearance. Gati and Hungu, tired of sitting in the rain, cut 
through the forest to a large timber null known as Bush Mills, 
which had been burn^ to the ground by Mau Mau early in 
the emergency, and came upon the tracks of two terrorists who 
seemed to have gone up and down one path several times that 
day. They decided to wait and see whether anyone passed by 
again. Patience was soon rewarded. Some three hours later two 
Mau Mau, carrying large bundles of wheat on their backs, came 
climbing up through the forest They did not see their am- 
bushers slip round behind them and both were pulled to the 
ground from behind so suddenly that the straps of their bun- 
dles, which were fastened round their necks, almost strangled 
them. When they realised what had happened they were furi- 
ous and accused Gati and Hungu of trying to steal the food 
they had taken such grave risks to obtain. However, when they 


saw our men draw their pistols they quickly stopped arguing 
and were brought back to us in a very worried state. 

In those days no Mau Mau gang moved far from its own 
chosen area, but the gangs knew their own homeland in great 
detail. Our own pseudo-operations had caused this immobility. 
We wanted to find out which part of the forest was Dedan 
Kimathfs select area. Meanwhile we thought it essential to 
raise our force from as many places as possible in order to gain 
a wide knowledge of the terrain all over the Aberdares. 

Our two latest additions were indoctrinated somewhat more 
quickly than the others because this time, as on all future oc- 
casions, we were able to use a larger number of their own kind 
on the job. Within a few days we found we were able to spring 
our eight-strong force into a completely new part of the moun- 
tain, the Fort Hall forest. At this time of the year, hot and 
sunny before the seasonal long rains, the forest is a picture of 
natural magnificence, with the trees and bushes in full flower 
and the bees humming from plant to plant in a constant search 
for pollen. As honey was one of the staple foods of the terror- 
ists, it was a normal practice for gangs to send out small scouting 
parties to pin-point beehives so that when the rains eventually 
did come they could find the honey easily. This search for hives 
inevitably meant a considerable increase in gang movement, 
and because of this we were a little concerned about the safety 
of our men. There was always the possibility that they would 
run into Kimathi's gang and be captured, for it was his practice 
to hold and interrogate every terrorist he came across. Some 
way of supporting our team while it was operating had to be 
found. We therefore decided that Tony, Gethieya, and I would 
set up a base in the forest to which our team could run if events 
turned out badly, or from which we could rush out if we heard 

The base we established for this operation in the Fort Hall 
forest consisted of a small canvas bivouac, hardly larger than 
a bed sheet, sited on the southern bank of a river called the 
Mathioya where the forest was sufficiently dense to keep us 



completely concealed. As the team began a search of the forest, 
we took up our positions. 

We had been in our tiny camp for only an hour or so when 
we realised that the firing of pistols would serve no practical 
purpose as a warning signal by day. The gases trapped between 
the intersecting links of bamboo expanded in the hot sun and 
split the poles in an endless volley of loud explosions which 
echoed all round the forest. It was quite impossible to dis- 
tinguish between these explosions and gunfire. Nevertheless, 
we took it in turn to sleep and someone was on the alert at all 

Meanwhile our team was moving silently through the under- 
growth, studying the movement of the bees, seeing if the Mau 
Mau had visited new hives, searching for tracks, for game 
snares, for watering points, and for other telltale signs of terror- 
ist activity. They discovered there was ample food for the Mau 
Mau in the area, as duiker and bushbuck were plentiful and 
there was an unusually large variety of indigenous trees whose 
fruits were edible. There was also a great deal of ihabai, a 
dreadfftl nettle which causes a massive body rash but which was 
a favourite Mau Mau f oodstuff. 

They stopped to examine each fruit-bearing tree and each 
patch of stinging nettle they came across. They carefully bent 
the nettles over with a stick to see whether any leaves had 
been plucked from the lower primaries; they knew the Mau 
Mau would never remove any of the upper leaves and thus 
reveal their visit. The first night came, and to avoid lighting a 
fire our team ate corned beef and buried the tins. They slept 
as a buck would sleep, where the ground was soft with their 
lair adequately hidden. It made no difference to them that the 
soil was moist and the dew dripped down on them from the 
leaves of the trees above. 

By first light they were on the move again, snaking their way 
through the forest, hoping all the time to sniff a whiff of smoke 
from Mau Mau fires. They had not gone very far before they 
came to a slight rise in the ground. Here they halted to peer 


through the trees at the higher ground in front of them. As they 
were doing this they heard a rustle in the forest close behind 
them. They were being tracked down! But before they had time 
to decide what to do, four terrorists came into view and stopped 
abruptly twenty yards away. For a moment both parties stood 
glaring at one another without moving an inch or making a 
sound. Suddenly there was a shout from Gati. 

"Urai [Him]," he called, and our men swung round sharply 
and scattered into the forest. 

"Tigai kuura, no ithui [Don't run, it is only us]," the terror- 
ists yelled back as they chased after our men. 

But our men were not running away from fright. They had 
already identified the newcomers. There was Rukwaro, a Fort 
Hall man; Thia, a minute little fellow whose size had made 
him the butt of many forest jokes; Wamai, who was an expert 
at making weapons; and Kinuthia, a tall, thin terrorist who had 
once operated far away on Mount Kenya. They were not 
dangerous, as were Kimathi or Kahiu Itina or Chege Karobia. 
Gati had shouted to his men to run only because he knew that 
if his team had stood their ground the other band wouW have 
fled instead. Running away from one another was an accepted 
habit when two gangs met. 

Convinced that our team was a genuine, friendly gang, the 
four Mau Mau raced on through the forest, appealing to them 
to stop. When our men had run a few hundred yards, Gati 
deliberately slowed them down so as to let his pursuers catch 
up, and soon everyone was gathered together in an excited, 
breathless group. 

"Km," exclaimed the panting Rukwaro, "we nearly missed 
one another/' 

"Nogwo," agreed Gati. That's it, we had gone like arrows!" 

At this everyone burst out laughing. In their excitement they 
did not care whether their enemies heard them. There was 
much shaking of hands the terrorist way each clasp followed 
by much holding of thumbs before clasping hands a second 
time. It was a happy reunion among friends of the jungle. 


By the time the team and their four new prisoners arrived 
at our forest base, the newcomers had been told all about our 
scheme and were quite pleased at the idea of joining us, es- 
pecially as Gati and the others seemed to be so happy in then- 
work. But they were frightened of meeting a European. They 
had, after all, only caught fleeting glimpses of them during 
the forest operations of the past three years. My first impression 
of them was their nauseating smell. It was so strong that I 
found I could not stand near them. The feeling was evidently 
mutual, for one of them instantly vomited on smelling a bar of 
soap taken from Gathieya's pocket. In the days to come I saw 
many terrorists sickened by the smell of soap on our bodies. 
Nothing seemed to revolt them more than cleanliness. 

The target of twelve which we had set ourselves before we 
were prepared to turn our attention to Kahiu Itina and Chege 
Karobia had now been reached. It had taken us seven weeks 
to arrive at this stage. We were at last ready to begin our search 
for the only two terrorists in the forest, apart from Kimathf s 
own men, who could lead us to Kimathi himself. 



Midi uguagira mundu uri ho. 

The tree f aUs on the man who stands by it. 

Trouble comes when we least expect it 

TEN DAYS later we went back into the Kipipiri forest. Our terror- 
ists were now in two teams of six, one under the leadership of 
Gati, the other under Hungu. 

It was almost nine months to the day since the last surrender 
talks in the Chinga forest had broken down, and we knew that 
a migration of terrorists had taken place away from our old 
meeting place in the eastern Aberdares, towards Kipipiri and 
the northern part of the mountain. With that migration, we now 
discovered, went Kahiu Itina. He had once been a leading 
member of the Ituma Demi Trinity Council, a body set up in 
the forest by Kimathi in 1953 to direct the activities of the nine 
separate wings of the Ituma Demi Mau Mau army. We went 
north into the Kipipiri in search of him. 

On the twenty-fourth of February each of the two teams 
picked up tracks in the forest, but by nightfall they had made 
no contact The next day they continued the hunt, and by noon 


had converged on an empty Mau Mau hideout close to the 
rocky summit of Kipipiri. 

Kipipiri is surrounded by thick forest and bamhoo which 
rises almost three quarters of the way up her slopes. Above 
this there is a stretch of grassland, like the Moorlands of the 
Aberdares in many ways, and above that again is the rocky 
summit. While our teams climbed they were both being care- 
fully watched by a Mau Mau gang, and they had only just 
arrived at the hideout when they heard voices calling from a 
ridge several hundred feet to their left The callers had identi- 
fied Gati and certain of our men, and were asking them to wait 
until they could come across the valley and join them. 

To Gatfs surprise, the other gang numbered no less than 
twelve. They carried four automatic weapons, and were led 
by a particularly well-known gang leader named Gaichuhie. 
The last time Gati had seen Gaichuhie was in August 1954, 
when he had been chosen by Kimathi as one of four so-called 
athuri or "elders" to preside over the trial of a young terrorist 
named Gathongo. Gathongo had been seated one night with 
Gati and some thirty other terrorists round a fire in the Fort 
Hall forest when Kimathi arrived on one of his inspections. All 
had gone well until the late hours of the night, when, suddenly, 
three rounds of ammunition exploded in the fire. Everyone 
scattered in alarm. When the panic was over and everyone had 
regathered, Kimathi and his escort began a thorough investi- 
gation. He was sure that the ammunition had been thrown on 
to the fire deliberately to try and kill him, although everyone 
else was satisfied that there had been an accident. Suspicion 
fell upon Gathongo, who, according to one of Kimathf s men, 
had seven rounds of ammunition in his pocket before the ex- 
plosion, but only four afterwards. Gati, however, knew Gath- 
ongo had not been responsible because he had been sitting next 
to him all the time. Angered by the false accusations made by 
Kimathf s man, Gati strongly defended Gathongo and said he 
would not allow him to be strangled. This could have put Gati 
himself in danger, but he held a loaded sub-machine gun in 


his hands, and nobody, not even Kimathi, felt inclined to argue 
too much that night. 

The next morning the argument began afresh, and it was 
obvious that if it weren't for Gati, Gathongo would have been 
strangled on the spot. News of the case spread quickly through 
the forest, and within days hundreds of Mau Mau were argu- 
ing about it Some of them wanted to see Gathongo killed as 
a warning to others who might be planning to attack Kimathi. 
Those who took this view were not the least concerned about 
the strength of the evidence against Gathongo. They simply 
wanted to see someone die, and Gathongo was as good a victim 
as anyone else. Many terrorists, however, sided with Gati and 
said that nobody should be strangled unless there was proof of 
responsibility. The argument reached such a pitch that it was 
touch and go whether the two opposing camps would begin 
fighting among themselves. At this stage Kimathi chose four 
elders to settle the row. Unlike the other three judges, who 
sought to ingratiate themselves with Kimathi by recommending 
Gathongo's execution, Gaichuhie would not agree to the 
strangulation without good reason. His stubbornness made him 
very unpopular, and he was threatened himself, but he literally 
stood by his guns and challenged all who accused him to a 
duel. In the end, his personal courage and toughness, for he was 
a tough nut by any standard, won the day, and Gathongo was 
spared. Gati and Gaichuhie had parted as great friends after 
this incident and were delighted to meet again on Mount 

After exchanging excited greetings, and smearing animal fat 
on the foreheads of our men in accordance with Mau Mau 
custom, both groups faced Mount Kenya, the seat of their god 
Ngai, and, with arms upraised, said their prayers. The ritual 
was a peculiar one. As the traditional god of the Kikuyu, Ngai, 
lived on the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya, the Mau Mau 
believed that their prayers would only be heard if they faced 
that mountain as their forefathers had done years ago. They 
all stood together in dose formation, earth in their right hands 


and arms raised shoulder high. After some time Gati and Gai- 
chuhie walked round together to the head of the group, a po- 
sition they were entitled to occupy as leaders, and began to 
speak in turn. Their words did not follow any set form. They 
came out spontaneously. 

TNgai," said Gaichuhie, "you have chosen me as one to lead 
your people. You have given us this forest to hide in, the rivers 
to drink from, the berries to eat, and the animal skuas to clothe 
ourselves in. You have told us to suffer so that the nine clans 
of the Kikuyu can be cleansed of all traitors and you have 
chosen a large, red book in which the names of all of us who 
die will be written, for they will be more precious than those 
who remain alive.'* 

As Gaichuhie paused at the end of this and every subsequent 
sentence, the Mau Mau behind hfm mumbled their chorus: 
"Thaai, Thaaiya, Thaai, Haaaahr 

This was a mark of agreement with what their leader had 
said, and as they mumbled these words they released some of 
the earth in their hands and allowed it to trickle down to the 
ground. This, they believed, meant that their prayers had been 
"planted as a seed in the ground and would therefore germi- 
nate" and be answered. When Gaichuhie finished it was Gati* s 
turn, and he prayed in a similar vein; his words, too, were 
planted with earth from the hands of his motionless listeners. 
His prayers drew an approving mumble, Tfaww, Thaatya, 
Thaai, Haaaahr Even to the Mau Mau the ceremony was a 
little frightening. 

When the prayers were finished and they had begun to talk 
to one another again, Gaichuhie said that there were a great 
many terrorists, possibly eight or ten gangs, over the crest of 
the mountain. Even more were expected to come that day be- 
cause a big meeting had been called by a Mau Mau witch 
doctor named Muraya, who would be arriving the following 
day with important news. Gati asked whether Kahiu Itina 
would be present, but Gaichuhie would only say, "Only Ngai 


knows that." Gati did not pursue the question. A man who is 
inquisitive is a spy, and spies are strangled. 

That night our teams slept with Gaichuhie's gang and did 
their fair share of sentry duty, knowing that no security forces 
were in the forest, as it had been closed to all troops. At first 
light the whole group moved over to the other side of the moun- 
tain. Here they found no less than eighty-two terrorists, at least 
half of whom were well known to our collaborators. Witch doc- 
tor Muraya had not yet arrived, nor was there any sign of Kahiu 
Itina. All the Mau Mau were split up into groups of six and 
seven and were lying about on the rocks and grass within shout- 
ing distance of each other. Outside the main group there were 
several groups of armed sentries, posted in pairs. Beyond them, 
right up at the top of the mountain, were several more sentries, 
all absolutely motionless with their backs against rocks. 

As soon as they arrived, our men were given a warm wel- 
come, for many had not seen them for several weeks, and no 
one had seen Gati or Hungu since our six hundred pounds 
had been put on their heads. Gati found his influence was so 
great that he was able to issue orders and organise the relief 
of sentries. As he wandered about among the terrorists, he 
recorded their names in a dairy farmer's milk ledger which he 
confiscated from a colleague. 

By three o'clock in the afternoon the terrorists were begin- 
ning to fidget. Witch doctor Muraya had still not turned up, 
and everyone had been without food for almost twenty-four 
hours. To cook they had first to find water, and this could only 
be done during the daylight By four o'clock it was unanimously 
agreed that if Muraya had not arrived within an hour, the 
meeting would be called off and everyone would go his way. 

After all this time the terrorists had run out of conversation 
and they stretched out on the grass in boredom and began to 
doze. Suddenly the silence was shattered by a shot. The gangs 
jumped to tibeir feet and rushed for cover with their guns and 
knives at the ready. Hungu had fired the shot, and after the 
first moments of confusion his neighbours grabbed him, threw 


him to the ground, and seized his pistol. Had he tried to murder 
someone? Was he a traitor? 

Within a minute, twenty to thirty terrorists were packed 
tightly round Hungu's prostrate body, questioning him sharply, 
and more were running towards hinj. Our men knew that to 
speak out in favour of a suspected person was to court an un- 
pleasant form of death, so they made no move. This was one 
of those occasions when matters had to be left to take their 
course. It was now up to Hungu whether Gati and all the rest 
of our men were to live or die. If our men ran they would 
certainly not get away from the mob, and they did not have 
enough guns to shoot their way out All they could do was to 
wait and hope and pray as they had never prayed before. 

Gati could hear Hungu answering the questions which were 
showered upon him so fast that he seldom had time to answer 
one before three or four more were fired at him. He could 
hear Hungu's nervous voice stuttering and hesitating, but al- 
ways just managing to get an answer out So far he was holding 
his own. Then Gati heard a demand that Hungu be given a 
traditional test to make birr* speak the truth. This involved 
placing red-hot coals on his bare stomach and cutting off his 
thumbs at the first joint Gati knew Hungu well enough to 
realise that he would never be able to withstand that torture. 
"This is the day of our judgment," Gati whispered to himself. 

Then Gati could bear the strain no longer. He got up and 
walked over to the hostile mob which was getting increasingly 
hysterical. He elbowed his way through them as though he 
too were angry. After all, he was a popular leaderthanks to 
us. When he reached the middle, and was standing beside 
Hungu's feet, he raised his hand high above his head. Speaking 
in a firm, authoritative voice, he ordered everyone to stand 
back and be silent Gaichuhie, in his usual stubborn way, re- 
fused to obey. "You, Gati," he said, "you were with Hungu. 
This is not an aff air for you. Probably you are a spy too." 

All eyes turned on Gati. This was a moment for strength. He 
knew that what he was now going to say might provoke Gai- 


chuhie to challenge him to a duel with knives, and one or the 
other, or both, would surely die a painful death. He knew that 
was the sort of thing which appealed to Gaichuhie*s tough 
temperament. He had not forgotten Gathongo*s trial in the 
forests of Fort Hall. But it was better to die fighting a duel 
with Gaichuhie than to be pulled to bits by a howling mob. 
Gati lifted his hand and placed a finger on the bridge of his 
nose between his eyes. "Look at me right here," he said to 
Gaichuhie. "And don't look anywhere else until I have finished/* 

He could sense that the mob was already impressed with his 
strong words. They became silent and watched with startled 
eyes. Gati gave Gaichuhie a cold, steady stare, not daring to 
blink or glance away. 

"Tell everyone here if we did not sleep with you last nightl 
Tell them that while you and your men were asleep my men 
guarded youl Tell them, for you seem very full of words." 

There was a deathly silence as the mob awaited Gaichuhie's 
answer. Those harsh words were not likely to draw a soft reply 
from a tenacious, brutal tough like Gaichuhie. But no -reply 
came; as the crowd began to stir and whisper, Gaichuhie shook 
his head, turned about, and walked meekly away, leaving Gati 
in command of the situation. The crisis had passed, but all was 
not yet well. Gati turned to Hungu, and in the same firm voice 
asked him whether he had fired. "Aca [No]," replied Hungu. 
"The gun fired by itself. It was in my pocket** 

"Give me his trousers,'* ordered Gati, hoping and praying 
that what Hungu had said was true, for he was now going to 
point out the bullet hole in the pocket It was true. Gati held 
up the trousers so that everyone round him could see the hole. 
When they had done so, he threw the trousers on the ground 
beside Hungu and told him to put them on. The mob did not 
object Some had already lost interest in the incident and were 
drifting, away. Then he called for Hungu's skin jacket and the 
pistol, and he was given these too. As with the trousers, he 
threw them down on to the ground, and Hungu nervously took 
them. For the last time he raised his voice and said: "All must 


leave here now. The shot will have been heard by our enemies.** 
And with that the mob dispersed. Many jeered at Gaichuhie, 
and some even said that he should be strangled for falsely 
accusing Gati. 

A few minutes later only two terrorists, apart from those in 
our teams, were left at the meeting place, but these two did 
not wish to leave by themselves. They had been living alone 
for many months after the gang which they belonged to was 
broken up by the security forces. Three of their companions 
had been killed in the action, and they were the only survivors. 
Both were natives of lyego location of the Fort Hall district, 
and when they saw that one of our men was also a native of 
lyego, whom they had known since childhood, they decided 
they would try and join Gatf s gang. The sight of this old friend 
was too much for them. They just could not leave him. And so 
the two came up to Gati and asked permission to join his party. 
Naturally Gati was delighted and willingly agreed to their re- 
quest. Out of a situation which seemed at one stage bound to 
end in catastrophe much good had come. For not only had 
Gatf s leadership been confirmed, but our whole force had had 
its morale lifted and our strength had been increased by two. 

Nevertheless, this incident on Kipipiri taught us an important 
lesson which we never forgot. If we had gone with our teams 
on the operation we would have compromised every single 
man. No retreat would have been possible over the open grass- 
land, and no disguise, however good, would have enabled us, 
as Europeans, to mingle with the mob at the meeting place. 
From that moment we resolved never to lead our teams in 
person unless the operation was one based on such good in- 
formation that we could go straight to a target and attack it 
When there was any searching through the forest to be done, 
or when there was a need to merge quietly with other Mau 
Mau gangs, we would leave things to our teams and restrict 
our own activities to ambushing key points, providing support, 
checking Mau Mau letter boxes, and contacting our teams at 
prearranged rendezvous in the forest. Having gone to all this 


trouble to establish a friendly Mau Mau gang in the Aberdares, 
no risk which might betray them was justified. 

Although trouble had come to us when we least expected 
it, or, as the Kifcuyu idiom says, "The tree beneath which we 
were resting had nearly fallen on top of us/' the Kipipiri episode 
paved the way for operations against Kahiu Itina and other 
terrorist leaders. Our small but valuable force had been dis- 
played before terrorists from many widely scattered areas of 
the Aberdares, and, with their return to their various haunts, 
they took the knowledge that every one of our men was still 
active and friendly. This news circulated still further afield 
much to our advantage. Furthermore, it had been established 
that our target, Kahiu Itina, was nowhere near Mount Kipipiri 
or the western Aberdares, or he would have been present at 
the meeting. We now turned our attention to the Wuthering 
Heights region of the northern Aberdares, which had been 
Kahiu's stamping ground in earlier days. 



Gwota mwaki ni kuhuria. 

To get the warmth of the fire one must stir its embers. 


No gains without pains. 

THROUGHOUT THE MONTH of March we operated at full pressure 
in a determined bid to find Kabiu Itina before the long rains 
broke. The teams made three contacts with small Mau Mau 
gangs. We captured four more terrorists and killed a further 
two, but no one had seen or heard of Kahiu Itina for many 
months. These were small engagements but even so they con- 
tained an element of danger. One incident was typical. 

Thirteen sheep had been stolen from a farm near Naromoru, 
and the tracks of the animals were followed by the police to 
the edge of the Aberdare forest. At their request we put one 
of our teams into the forest to pick up the spoor and track 
down the gang. Although the gang had shown much skill in 
driving the sheep along well-used game paths where the spoor 
of the game and sheep merged, to the detriment of quick track- 
ing, the team eventually managed to find the place several 
miles up the mountain where the animals had been slaughr 


Much of the meat had been abandoned at this point, which 
showed that the gang had been prepared to make do with 
what they could carry and to move on before any soldiers or 
pseudos could come up on them. It looked, however, as though 
the gang was reasonably large, and we were hopeful that Kahiu 
Itina was responsible. 

After filling their skin bags with some of the abandoned 
meat, our team continued the pursuit westwards over the rising 
ground towards Muir's Massif, which they reached at dusk. It 
was now too dark for them to see the tracks of the gang so 
they decided to rest until daybreak. The cold, howling winds 
of the upper Aberdares had dropped in the calm of the late 
evening, and our team lay back on the grass, gazing down to- 
wards the Lol Daiga hills which were faintly visible more than 
fifty miles away, and talking in subdued voices about the visits 
they had made to that far country to steal Nderobo cattle. As 
they were lying there, Njeru, the leader, suddenly heard an 
unfamiliar noise. He touched one of his talkative companions 
on the shoulder and then turned his head to one side to listen. 
A long way down below, in a thickly wooded ravine, a dry 
branch had cracked and fallen heavily to the ground. Seconds 
passed, then they all heard something: Ka, ka, ka, then a pause, 
ka, ka. Now they knew what it was. Someone was hacking at 
a tree. It was not the deep, heavy sound of the sort of axe 
used by forestry workers, but the finer and sharper noise which 
only a Mau Mau simi would make. It could only be Mau Mau 
at this time of the evening, Mau Mau looking for firewood to 
warm themselves during the night 

"If they are collecting firewood the mbuchi [hideout] must 
be near," said Njeru, and, as one, the team rose, threw the 
straps of their skin bags over their heads, ruffled the grass where 
they had been lying, and hurried off round Muir's Massif and 
down the side of the mountain. 

Soon they were on the edge of a deep ravine waiting quietly 
for darkness to fall. They had hoped to hear terrorist voices 
from here, but the noise of the river below drowned out all 


other sounds. When darkness came they moved cautiously 
through the brushwood, and had only gone a short way when 
they saw the flames o a fire flickering below them almost half 
way up the far side of the ravine. They moved on slowly until 
they were only forty yards from the fire. Three terrorists were 
sitting round it Each was holding a stick on which large pieces 
of meat were stuck, and the meat was sizzling in the fire. 

Our men reckoned that only three terrorists could not have 
carried all that meat by themselves, and that there must be 
others in the vicinity, so they decided to lie quietly until the 
meal was over and the three terrorists had gone to sleep. Then 
they would creep up and take them by surprise. A half moon 
was high in the sky before all was quiet round the fire. The 
three terrorists had not been joined by any others. They had 
eaten well, too well to do anything but sleep. They sat round 
the fire and talked for hours. At last they all stood up, stretched 
their arms and relieved themselves where they stood. Then 
they covered the fire with earth and lay down on the warm 
earth for the night. Our team crept up on them quietly. They 
did not expect much opposition, as there were two of our men 
to each opponent, and we also had the advantage of surprise. 

Our men crawled right into the hideout and stood over their 
sleeping victims. They then dropped as a leopard would drop 
from a tree on to a passing buck. But they had underestimated 
the physical strength of their adversaries. One of our men, 
Waira, was thrown backwards into the bush. Njeru fell over 
when his leg was grabbed. Thia, the dwarf, almost lost his 
revolver. Within seconds knives were flashing, and everyone 
was wriggling and kicking on the ground in the darkness. A 
heavy body fell on Njeru's face. He was choking. He gasped, 
he bit, but in vain. He was sure he was about to die, so he 
gave a muffled yell. Waira, bleeding from a knife wound on 
his arm, broke loose and went to help Njeru. An elbow hit 
him on the chest and knocked frfrn over, and a terrorist dropped 
on him. Over and over they rolled until the terrorist was under 
him. This was not a time to worry about bringing them back 


alive it was a fight for life. Now Waira's right arm was free. 
He pulled his knife from its sheath and plunged it deep into 
his opponent's chest The man gasped, stretched up a little, 
then relaxed his grip. Thia was shouting "Ninguragwol Ningu- 
ragwa [I will be killed! I will he killed]!" but Waira could 
not see him. The dwarf was beneath three or four writhing 
bodies. Waira pulled the first leg he found, but it did no good. 

Then Waira remembered his revolver. He pulled it from its 
holster inside his skin jacket and fired three shots into the 
ground. Within seconds the rolling and kicking stopped, and 
he heard the two remaining terrorists pleading for mercy. It 
was some time before everyone was able to stand up. They 
were all cut and bleeding. 

Unfortunately it was just after these interesting little battles 
that Tony Lapage was recalled to more routine duties. I doubt 
whether anyone could have been sorrier to leave us, for his 
heart and soul were in the job, and he actively enjoyed trailing 
through those forests day and night with the element of risk 
always present. Tony was a wonderful companion, who had 
quite the best sense of humour I have ever known. It was not 
easy to replace him, and for a long time Gethieya and I carried 
on alone, but eventually I was joined by Inspector Richard Mac- 
Lachlan, a slightly built Scotsman from Glasgow. 

We were closer than we thought, however, to Kahiu Itina, 
and after the end of March events occurred in rapid succession. 
Our first contact with his gang was on April Fool's Day, when 
one of our teams came face to face with some of his men and 
merged, unsuspected, with them. Unfortunately, Kahiu Itina 
was not with them; he and eleven others were some fifteen 
miles through the forest to the east. The group that our men 
met were setting game snares over a wide area of the northern 
Aberdares, and the prospects of our team staying with them, 
and eventually accompanying them back to Kahiu Itina, were 

All went extremely well until the night of the second of April, 
when the group was fired upon by a pseudo-gang. In their jour- 


ney with Kahiu Itina's men our team had knowingly, but m> 
avoidably, passed out of the area closed to operations. When 
the firing began everyone scattered, but no casualties were in- 
flicted and the attack was very half-hearted By a stroke of 
good luck, during the confusion one of our men, named Kibata, 
tackled and tied up an enormous terrorist from Kahiu Itina's 
gang called Ruku. The next morning they brought him to a 
point in the forest where we were meeting the team. Ruku 
knew exactly where the trapping party were to rejoin Kahiu 
Itina. He told us that when he last left him, Kahiu Itfna had 
been in a hideout on the Ngobit River near Wuthering Heights, 
and, without delay, we rushed round to that side of the moun- 

To everyone's horror, on arrival at Wuthering Heights after 
a back-breaking journey up the Elephant Entry Track the 
worst track on the whole Aberdares Ruku stubbornly refused 
to co-operate with us, insisting that he had not said that Kahiu 
Itina was on the Ngobit River. He now claimed no knowledge 
of his whereabouts and, though we knew he had been with 
the gang for over a year, he swore that he had only met them 
twenty-four hours before. Every effort was made to get him to 
talk before others from the trapping party could get back to 
Kahiu Itina and tell him about the action, but Ruku remained 
as stubborn as ever. By the evening of the third of April he 
had still not changed Iris story so MacLachlan and I took him 
over while the teams headed for the Ngobit River to carry out 
a general search. All Ruku asked during the next few hours 
was that we shoot him. He wanted to die. 

We made ourselves a small shelter on the fringe of the Moor- 
lands, and while Mac went off to draw water I took Ruku with 
me to gather firewood, which was no easy task in the darkness. 
When we had gone a short way from the camp I told him he 
could go away if he wished. I had said this to uncooperative 
terrorists before, and found that it had worked wonders. They 
would, of course, be very stupid if they did go; they would 
certainly be murdered by their confederates who would sus- 


pect them of being won over or bribed by us. Ruku was as- 
tonished. He looked at me menacingly for some moments, then 
sat down on the ground and shook his head. 

"Where do you want me to go?" he asked. 

"Why not go back to Kahiu Itina," I suggested. 

"So you want me to be killed, do you?" 

"Haven't you been asking me to kill you for the last two 
hours? What does it matter whether I kill you or Kahiu Itina 
kills you?" 

Ruku realised then that he could not leave us. He knew that 
if he were seen again by Kahiu Itina's men they would kill him. 
Once he had been missed after the shooting, the gang would be 
sure that he was coming back to betray his leader. That was the 
Mau Mau way of thinking. His simple mind suddenly realised 
that while his enemy was allowing him his freedom, his friends 
would kill him when they saw him again. What an odd world 
it was. From that moment Ruku's outlook changed. Without a 
word he rose to his feet and began to look for firewood, and 
when we had gathered enough and gone back to camp, he lit 
the fire and fetched stones for us to sit on. As the night passed 
he became more and more friendly and talkative. By dawn he 
had volunteered to lead us to the spot where he had last seen 
Kahiu Itina. 

At daybreak, as Mac and I were about to set off with Ruku 
to hunt Kahiu Itina ourselves, two members of our team arrived 
unexpectedly at the camp to report. All night they had searched 
along both banks of the Ngobit River, but had not seen or 
heard anything, and Gati now wanted to know what to do. Ruku 
listened intently as they told their story and described their 
search. When they had finished he asked: 

"Did you reach the pkce where the muiri tree has fallen?" 

"Aca, we have seen no muiri tree," they replied. 

"In that case let us go now," Ruku said. 

With that he rose to his feet and beckoned the two messen- 
gers to follow him. And so they left us. Within an hour they 
had joined the rest of our force and were approaching a thick 


patch of forest along the east bank of the Ngobit River, but 
at least a mile above the point where our team had finally 
called off their search the previous night. On Ruku's advice 
the force split up here to surround the patch of forest, and 
several groups of two men each went round to cover all the 
buffalo paths coining out of the thicket, for only along these 
paths could anyone travel at speed. Meanwhile he and Gati 
pushed their way through the undergrowth towards the mid- 
dle, hoping to flush Kahiu Itina. 

They had only gone about a hundred yards, when one of 
Kahiu Itina's men walked into our sentries on a buffalo track 
and was captured. A second terrorist, however, was lagging 
some thirty yards behind and had seen his companion pounced 
upon. He turned round and dashed off through the forest. Back- 
wards and forwards he dodged with one of our men, called 
Gacheru, on his heels. Finally he broke out and dashed up a 
hill past Gati and Ruku, who joined in the chase. 

He was a hard man to catch. First Gacheru, tired out, fell 
back and left Gati and Ruku to continue on their own. The 
agile terrorist darted from left to right like a hare, and then 
veered south towards the river, leaping down the slope in great 
bounds, but he could not shake off his pursuers. He plunged 
into the river, but the smooth river stones were too slippery. 
He lost his balance and fell heavily into the water. There, too 
tired to do anything else, he sat up and raised his hands in 

Unlike Ruku, to whom death had once seemed a pleasant 
relief, this terrorist was terrified of dying. As he was being 
dragged out of the water, he pleaded desperately with his cap- 
tors, telling them that he would show them where Kahiu Itina 
and many others were hiding if they would only spare his life. 
He confirmed the information Ruku had given Gati, that Kahiu 
Itina had been in the patch of forest where the chase began. 
Only the day before the gang had moved to another hideout, 
but he knew exactly how to find this new rendezvous. 

It was important to get to it quickly, because it was likely 


that some sharp-eyed scout had seen the chase and was already 
racing to warn Kahiu Itina. There was no time for Gati to 
gather the rest of his force together. He, Ruku, the prisoner, 
and Gacheru, who had by now arrived at the river, would have 
to go on alone and trust in Ngai that they would not be killed. 

Fortunately the hideout was not far off, and our party could 
soon see it. Near the headwaters of the river an outcrop of 
massive boulders, each several feet high and weighing several 
tons, surrounded a single, tall, dry tree. The new hideout was 
under this tree, but no one could be seen. 

Gati pushed the terrorist in front of him, hoping that the 
gang would first identify our prisoner and think that he was 
bringing back some stragglers he had picked up during his 
brief absence. But their approach was not detected, and they 
reached the boulders without a check. 

From there they could hear voices in the hideout. The ter- 
rorists were praying in low voices, and someone, probably a 
witch doctor, was mumbling words which were being repeated 
by the rest of the gang. Gati climbed quietly to the top of the 
nearest rock, and as he peered over it, his automatic ready in 
his hand, he saw them praying and heard the familiar words, 
"Thaai, Thaaiya, Thaai, Haaaah!" By this time Ruku had taken 
the prisoner's simi and was crawling up the same rock to lie 
beside Gati. 

All the men in the hideout were standing in formation, fac- 
ing Mount Kenya with arms raised shoulder high. Gati pointed 
his gun at them and ordered them to stand where they were; 
they turned their heads towards him and gazed into the muzzle 
of his automatic. But no one moved, no one even dropped his 

Then someone in the gang shouted "Tigai kuura [Don't 
run]." It was the voice of Kingori, the greatest of all Mau Mau 
witch doctors on the Aberdares. As the gang stood there, with 
their arms still raised above their shoulders, Kingori and Kahiu 
Itina came forward and looked up at their captors; 

"I have had a dream," said Kingori. "I dreamt that today 


Ngai would send someone here who was not an enemy and 
he would take us to a place of peace. I have told all these 
children of mine about this message from Ngai, and they are 
at peace. I know you are the one Ngai has sent" 

"We too have come for peace," replied Gati, who was com- 
pletely taken aback by the meek and pacific reaction of the 
terrorists, and unable to make head or tail of what Kingori had 
said about a dream. "Choose three people to cut muondwe to 
tie the hands. Everyone else must sit down. If the three do not 
return, that will be a sign of war, and everyone here will die." 

There was a pause. The gang did not move. They would 
not comply with orders from anyone but KingorL They would 
sooner be shot down than sit on the ground without Kingorf s 
instructions. Then Kingori turned and faced his followers and 
passed on the orders, and, without a murmur, they complied. 
Three men climbed over the rocks to go and cut muondwe. 
There was an uneasy silence while they were away. Everyone 
except Kingori, whose eyes were closed, stared in bewilder- 
ment at Gati and Ruku. They knew their captors welL They 
were surprised, but they were not frightened, for Ngai, accord- 
ing to Kingori, had sent them, and because of that there was 
something sacred about Gati and Ruku. They did not hate them; 
they did not like them; they simply looked at them. Kingori 
was praying again to his god on Mount Kenya. He seemed to 
be in a trance, unmindful of the gun pointing at hinr^ not caring 
what his captors or followers were doing. Only when the three 
muondwe cutters slid down the rocks back into the hideout 
did he shake himself back to full consciousness again. Taking 
the strips of muondwe, the forest string, in his own hands, he 
began to bind his own men. No one objected. In fact they held 
out their hands for him. When all but Kahiu Itina and Kingori 
himself had been tied he went back to stand beneath the rock, 
looked at Gati, and asked: 

"There are three other children in this forest whom we can- 
not leave. Spare me to send for them?'* But before Gati had 
time to answer he turned his head to look at the prisoner who 


had led Gati to the hideout, and asked him: "Where is the child 
you went with to the river?" 

Much to Gati's surprise, he then heard his prisoner tell Kin- 
gori how his companion had been captured on the buffalo path 
earlier that morning, a fact of which Gati was completely un- 
aware, although his own men had been responsible. Had he 
known this before he would never have dashed on to the hide- 
out with only Ruku and Gacheru. He would have gathered 
his men together first. He had come on almost single-handed 
because he thought the second terrorist had got away and was 
on his way to Kahiu Itina. 

As the party set off down the river to rejoin the rest of our 
team, a small group of Kahiu's men were sent off to find the 
missing members of the gang who were trapping away to the 
east. They were told to rendezvous with Gati and Kingori at 
an old army fort on Wuthering Heights. Their mission also 
proved successful, and by late afternoon they had returned 
with the trappers. The total number of terrorists accounted 
for in this single, uncanny operation was brought to twenty- 

Throughout the history of the emergency there had never 
been an incident quite like this one. Kingori's dream was clearly 
the only reason for the docile and passive attitude of the gang. 
In the days which followed we questioned and requestioned 
the gang; we just could not believe the story. But we found 
that Kingori had, in fact, done just what he told Gati. The day 
before the attack on the hideout he had called them all together 
and told them how Ngai had spoken to him in a dream. He had 
told them how "Ngai would send messengers of peace," and 
that when these messengers came everyone was to remain quiet 
"otherwise Ngai would shake with anger if anyone fled." 
Throughout the night the gang had sat peacefully in the hide- 
out "awaiting Ngaf s messengers." Nobody had slept and no- 
body had talked. Every few hours Kingori and Kahiu Itina had 
made the others stand and face Mount Kenya and pray so that 
"Ngai would see they were prepared." We listened to each 


man's story separately. Kongori may well have invented the tale 
of his talk with Ngai, but there was no doubt about what he 
had told his men. Had it not been for the dream and Kingorf s 
undisputed power over his superstitious followers, Gati would 
certainly have had a very different reception. 

I shall never forget my first sight of this large body of terror- 
ists. Kahiu Itina was obviously the militant leader. His eyes 
were bloodshot from strain and, unlike all the others, he was 
almost bald. He wore an ingeniously made leopard-skin coat 
and trousers, a vest tailored from a piece of old canvas tar- 
paulin, a decorative Colobus monkey-skin hat, a Boy Scout belt 
and a pair of coarse, brown gaiters made from the thick hide 
of a buffalo. He had the walk of a townsman and spoke with a 
snarl. He was clearly one of those who liked to keep everyone 
hopping around him, one whose authority had gone to his head, 
and, as his record showed, he was a most dangerous fanatic. 

Kingori, on the other hand, was quiet-spoken and outwardly 
gentle. Never had I seen a man so imbued with the Mau Mau 
perversions of the old tribal religion. He spoke and thought 
about Ngai all day long. It was difficult to reconcile this meek- 
looking, God-fearing individual with the powerful Mau Mau 
witch doctor that he was. Even after his capture he was idolised 
by his followers who bathed his feet, served his food, debused 
his hair, and generally waited upon him as diligently as any 
Roman slaves had served their masters. At a glance it was diffi- 
cult to picture hirn as a protagonist of extreme violence, as one 
who had blessed the commission of appalling acts of savagery 
and inspired those who committed them to repeat them over 
and over again. He seemed to have neither the physique nor 
the temperament for that sort of thing. But beneath his clothes 
of animal skins were several scars gained in bygone battles with 
the security forces. One hand had been permanently deformed 
by a bullet wound. 

The rest of the gang had a mass of bristly, woolly hair, which 
made them look like walking kitchen mops. They had long, 
black beards; their eyes were wide; and they wore an assort- 


ment of skin jackets and caps. lliey carried a variety of weap- 
ons. Some were European rifles and revolvers, which they had 
preserved remarkably well throughout their three and a half 
years in the forest Some were homemade guns which had been 
manufactured with an undisputed ingenuity from lengths of 
piping, bicycle frames, and scraps of wire and metal they had 
found lying about the countryside, but these were often more 
dangerous for the man who fired them than the target Many 
of the animal skins they wore were also tailored with a degree 
of ingenuity. None were made for camouflage or disguise. They 
were all designed for show or warmth, usually for warmth. The 
softer skins, such as those of the hyrax, otter, tree squirrel, or 
pygmy antelope, were used as inner garments with the hair 
inside to seal the warmth of the body. The coarser, rougher 
skins of the eland, the bushbuck, and the wild pig, were used 
as outer garments. A large bushbuck skin was enough for one 
coat or pair of trousers, but thirty to forty hyrax skins would 
be needed for a single inner jacket. All these skins had been 
cut up and sewn together with forest twine or thin strips of 
leather, which made the finished article far more durable and 
strong than one might imagine. Gang leaders and witch doctors 
were the ones who dressed for show. All the choicest skins such 
as leopard, Colobus, cheetah, qr badger were made into an 
assortment of show pieces, ranging from peaked caps and arm- 
bands to belts, gaiters, and shoulder straps. Small portions of 
these colourful skins were often sewn on to more ordinary skins 
as pockets and insignia of rank. But the beauty of this clothing 
was purely visual, and none could be kept as souvenirs. All the 
clothes stank with a peculiarly penetrating odour, which was 
not surprising. One terrorist, on being asked when he had last 
taken off his skin jacket, proudly answered, "Not since the skin 
dried round my body." 

Witch doctor Kingori regarded all the Mau Mau in the forest 
as "his children." Nothing would alter his religious belief that 
"Kinyanjui had been sent by Ngai to collect the children of the 
forest together," and he was certain that the Land Rovers we 


used to bring the gang out of the forest were the magunt ma 
Ngai or the "the legs of God." He had entered the jungle three 
years before, after administering Mau Mau oaths in the reserve> 
and had predicted that "rocks of fire would one day fall from 
the sky on to the forest." When the bombing of the jungle began 
the terrorists remembered his prediction and turned to him for 
advice. When his subsequent prophesies proved right his fame 
was enhanced, but when they proved wrong they were quickly 
forgotten and the error was attributed to the thick forests which 
had distorted Ngai's words and prevented him from hearing 
them properly. So his reputation had grown, unimpeded by his 
mistakes, until all Mau Mau came to regard him, as they did 
witch doctor Muraya, as a mutumwo wa Ngai, or **Ngaf s disci- 
ple." To them his power was complete and decisive, and when 
he dreamt his dreams were infallible, but like most Mau Mau 
witch doctors he did not dream often, for *to converse with 
Ngai too regularly was likely to annoy him.* He would fre- 
quently be pressed by his followers to give them personal news 
or guidanceabout the state of their homes, their chances of 
recovering from theit wounds, whether a raid would be success- 
ful, whether a journey would be safe or dangerous. But more 
often than not he would decline to answer such questions on 
the ground that he could not contact Ngai, Ngai could only 
contact him. It was a one-way traffic. 

Within a week we realised that neither Kahiu Itina nor witch 
doctor Kingori would give us information about Dedan Ki- 
mathi. Nothing would make them change their attitude. As 
soon as his name was mentioned they refused to speak. In fact, 
it turned out that they had no useful information to give. They 
did not know where Kimathi was, nor did they want to know. 

Some of our old trusted collaborators then advised us that 
some of the less important members of Kahiu Itina's gang might 
come forward with useful information about Kimathi if Kingori 
and Kahiu Itina were removed. We agreed and, while these 
two important terrorists were handed over to the police for 


normal action, we turned our attention to the others and heard 
what they had to say. 

The effect of Kingori's and Kahiu Itina's removal was instan- 
taneous. The others became far more co-operative. Several of 
them had news of Kimathi, but, alas, their information was of 
very little value. We were told that Kimathi, more than any 
other terrorist in the forest, had become acutely conscious of 
the dangers of pseudo-gang operations. Not long before he had 
sent out messengers to the leaders of all the larger gangs, in- 
cluding Kabiu Itina, to say that from a given date he would 
kill anyone who came near him "because he could no longer 
tell who was a traitor and who was not" Two of his messen- 
gers, who had arrived at Kahiu Itina's camp in early February, 
and who knew how changeable Kimathi was and how suspi- 
cious he had become of everything and everyone, had seen 
little point in returning to hirn and living a life completely 
cut off from all other terrorists in the forest. As a result they 
had taken the exceptional course of remaining with Kahiu Itina, 
and it certainly was exceptional for Kimathi's men were usually 
fanatically loyal to their leader. Both these messengers, Kinyua 
and Nderitu, were now in our hands. 

From all the information Kahiu Itina's men had been able 
to gather, both from forest letter boxes and from other terror- 
ists with whom they talked, it was clear that the desertion of 
these two messengers had infuriated Kimathi. We were told that 
he had embarked on a ruthless campaign to kill any terrorist 
who did not belong to his own gang. Now everyone was doubly 
terrified of him and took every possible precaution to avoid 
him. For this Kingori and Kahiu Itina hated him and would 
never allow his name to be mentioned. They had heard that 
two small groups of terrorists who had unwittingly gone to find 
him had been strangled and hacked to pieces by his henchmen. 

A large region of the Aberdare forest nad thus become known 
to everyone as Kimathi's area, and was not entered under any 
circumstances. We were assured that only his own men knew 
exactly where he was hiding, but it was virtually certain that he 


would be somewhere in that forbidden region of the mountain. 
And we now discovered that the forbidden region had been 
his favourite haunt since he first entered the forest 

From all this it was quite obvious that neither Kahiu Itina 
nor Chege Karobia could possibly get us any closer to our tar- 
get. We had to be content with a rough description of the Ki- 
mathi area, where we would now have to go in search of him. In 
terms of Kimathi, all we had been able to gain from the capture 
of Kahiu Itina and his gang was information which narrowed 
down our field of search. From his two deserter messengers, 
however, we were able to find out a great deal more about 
his forest life. They told us that he never stayed in one place 
for more than a few hours. Frequently he would tell his men 
that he was going north when, in fact, he went south. He was 
reputed to know more about bushcraft and the forest than any 
other terrorist and to be able to travel at considerable speed 
for seven days without food. It was said that he had such a 
keen instinct that were he to sit up suddenly during the night 
and say, "We go," as sure as dawn the security forces would 
arrive at the spot within a matter of hours. This mysterious 
sense which forewarned him of danger was his principal hold 
on his followers. Despite his vile temper, despite his lust for 
killing, despite his treacherous, unpredictable temperament, 
they believed there was more room for survival with him than 
away from him. 

The area in which he had isolated himself had been soundly 
chosen. It was the part of the Aberdares known as the Tree 
Tops Salient, or Ruthaithi, and the vast forest area to the north- 
west known as the Mwathe, This part of the mountain, over 
two hundred square miles in size, was the most difficult and 
dangerous of all areas on the Aberdares in which to operate. 
The ridges were steep, the bushes particularly thick, and it con- 
tained nearly seven times as many wild animals to the square 
mile as did any other part of the Aberdare or Mount Kenya 
forests. After many months of bombing by the R.A.F. the ani- 
mals were extremely aggressive. 


This news depressed us and made us realise that the hunt 
would be far longer and more difficult than we had originally 
thought, but we derived some satisfaction from knowing that 
all three of our initial letter points had either been in or on 
the edge of this particular area. This showed that our original 
estimate of Kimathf s whereabouts had not been very wide of 
the mark. Now we were certain that he had heard the sky 
shouts, but it was equally certain that he would never have 
acted upon them. Nevertheless, what we had lost on the swings 
we had gained on the roundabouts, for as a result of the sky 
shout, Gati had come into our hands; through him we had 
raised a valuable force of terrorists who alone had the knowl- 
edge and ability to hunt Kimathi; through them we had ac- 
counted for Kahiu Itina and his gang and, lastly, we had been 
able to narrow down our field of search to less than one tenth 
of the Aberdare mountain. 

Now that we knew why Kingori and Kahiu Itina hated Ki- 
mathi, Gethieya, Gati, and I decided to visit them in prison to 
see whether their new surroundings had loosened their tongues. 
First we went to see Kahiu Itina. We were there but a few 
minutes. Imprisonment, to put it mildly, had not improved his 
temper or his temperament Next we went to see Kingori. As 
we entered his cell we found him facing Mount Kenya, praying 
to his god, Ngai. He stopped abruptly when the door was un- 

"This is better than the forest, is it not, Kingori?" I asked him. 

"Muno, muno [much, much better]," he answered. "Ngai has 
already spoken to me here and I am happy." 

"What did he say, Kingori?" I enquired. 

He shook his head, then closed his eyes for a few seconds 
before looking at me again. "He told me all the children in the 
forest will leave soon, all but Kimathi. He will be finished. He 
will be arrested in the tenth month before the rains for the 
millet planting begin." 

The tenth month, I thought-that is October. It was still 
April. Another six months! *Tliere is nothing which will keep 


Kimathi in that forest for another six months, Kingori," I as- 
sured him. We talked for some minutes more, then I left. 

We now trained our sights on to the Tree Tops Salient and 
the Mwathe. For the first time we experienced in full measure 
the ordeal of operating in this particular region during the sea- 
sonal long rains, which broke in full fury at exactly this mo- 



Oi, oi, egunaga ki? 

What is the use of crying "Oi, oi?" 

What cannot be cured must be endured. 

THE LONG RAINS, which break with tremendous force at the end 
of March or beginning of April, usually go on without any real 
pause for the first week, then taper on into spasmodic afternoon 

Within minutes of the first deafening clap of thunder, the 
rough forest tracks become quagmires and everything, every- 
where, is drenched. Frightened by the lightning and thunder, 
the larger animals come out on to the tracks and wallow in 
the mud, tearing deep craters with their feet and making travel 
yet more difficult. 

These heavy storms are often preceded by hail which falls 
with great force, tearing leaves and even branches from trees, 
destroying the beautiful wild flowers, driving the animals fran- 
tic, and covering the ground with a white, pebbled crust. 

Most of the vehicle tracks in the Aberdares and there are 
few paths that qualify for this modest title are built on the 
side of ridges. The ridge tops are too narrow for tracks and 


the bottoms are usually filled by streams. When the earth is 
heavy with hail or rain water, landslides are a constant danger. 
When the rams were over we always had to send large working 
gangs up into the forest to grub away the piles of broken earth 
or rebuild those bits of track which had been swept away al- 
together. Throughout the rainy season, in fact, a vehicle is of 
little use, and if you want to travel you have to walk Even 
walking is a tricky business. Within hours of the time the rain 
starts -all the little streams swell and become formidable bar- 
riers. In their swirling waters there are bits of dry wood, broken 
logs, and even tree stumps. These are difficult to see in the 
brown, muddy water and they sometimes cause severe injury 
to man and beast alike. Detours of fifteen or twenty miles are 
sometimes necessary in a journey that would normally cover 
less than three miles. 

Then there are the animals. Terrified by the thunder, they 
charge to and fro in a constant and hostile challenge to any 
intruder in their kingdom. The Mau Mau used to say that the 
animals associated thunder with bombing, and that during 
thunderstorms they became crazed with fear. Certainly I had 
never before seen game react during thunderstorms as they did 
on the Aberdares after the bombing. Elephant, rhino, and buf- 
falo would crash wildly through the bush as if trying to escape 
from their own shadows; warthog and bushbuck would race 
aimlessly backwards and forwards; and even the monkeys 
would leap down from their branches and huddle together in 
terrified little groups at the foot of the trees. The terrorists re- 
ported that monkeys sometimes used to come down from the 
treetops and lie beside them at the bottom of the large, heavy 
trees as soon as the drone of an airplane was heard. Like the 
Mau Mau, they had learnt by costly experience that the sound 
of an aircraft or the explosion of a bomb was a signal to seek 
cover and that there was no better cover than the trunks of the 
larger trees. As long as the drone of the aircraft's engines con- 
tinued, these little creatures would lie side by side with the 
Mau Mau, oblivious of their presence. After the bombing I 



Oi, oi y egunaga ki? 

What is the use of crying "Oi, oi?" 

What cannot be cured must be endured. 

THE LONG BAINS, which break with tremendous force at the end 
of March or beginning of April, usually go on without any real 
pause for the first week, then taper on into spasmodic afternoon 

Within minutes of the first deafening clap of thunder, the 
rough forest tracks become quagmires and everything, every- 
where, is drenched. Frightened by the lightning and thunder, 
the larger animals come out on to the tracks and wallow in 
the mud, tearing deep craters with their feet and making travel 
yet more difficult. 

These heavy storms are often preceded by hail whicn falls 
with great force, tearing leaves and even branches from trees, 
destroying the beautiful wild flowers, driving the animals fran- 
tic, and covering the ground with a white, pebbled crust. 

Most of the vehicle tracks in the Aberdares and there are 
few paths that qualify for this modest titleare built on the 
side of ridges. The ridge tops are too narrow for tracks and 


the bottoms are usually filled by streams. When the earth is 
heavy with hail or rain water, landslides are a constant danger. 
When the rains were over we always had to send large working 
gangs up into the forest to grub away the piles of broken earth 
or rebuild those bits of track which had been swept away al- 
together. Throughout the rainy season, in fact, a vehicle is of 
little use, and if you want to travel you have to walk. Even 
walking is a tricky business. Within hours of the time the rain 
starts ^all the little streams swell and become formidable bar- 
riers. In their swirling waters there are bits of dry wood, broken 
logs, and even tree stumps. These are difficult to see in the 
brown, muddy water and they sometimes cause severe injury 
to man and beast alike. Detours of fifteen or twenty miles are 
sometimes necessary in a journey that would normally cover 
less than three miles. 

Then there are the animals. Terrified by the thunder, they 
charge to and fro in a constant and hostile challenge to any 
intruder in their kingdom. The Mau Mau used to say that the 
animals associated thunder with bombing, and that during 
thunderstorms they became crazed with fear. Certainly I had 
never before seen game react during thunderstorms as they did 
on the Aberdares after the bombing. Elephant, rhino, and buf- 
falo would crash wildly through the bush as if trying to escape 
from their own shadows; warthog and bushbuck would race 
aimlessly backwards and forwards; and even the monkeys 
would leap down from their branches and huddle together in 
terrified little groups at the foot of the trees. The terrorists re- 
ported that monkeys sometimes used to come down from the 
treetops and lie beside them at the bottom of the large, heavy 
trees as soon as the drone of an airplane was heard. Like the 
Mau Mau, they had learnt by costly experience that the sound 
of an aircraft or the explosion of a bomb was a signal to seek 
cover and that there was no better cover than the trunks of the 
larger trees. As long as the drone of the aircraft's engines con- 
tinued, these little creatures would lie side by side with the 
Mau Mau, oblivious of their presence. After the bombing I 


often saw the monkeys take shelter beneath trees at the first 
sound of thunder. 

The rains had a most depressing effect on those of us who 
were not really used to living in the jungle. There can be few 
experiences in this world more demoralising than sitting out in 
the pouring rain hour after hour, unable to find dry shelter, 
surrounded by thick, cold forest, and knowing that the discom- 
fort has to be endured for a long while to come. Then your 
morale receives its ultimate test; there is nothing to distract 
your mind from the present misery, no imminent danger, no 
chance of action, no one to talk to, for even if you have a com- 
panion the noise of the rain is too loud to hear his voice. There 
is nothing to do but sit or lie and feel the rain trickling through 
your clothes. Despondently you look first at the dark sky above, 
then at the drooping leaves, each one of which is making its 
contribution to the flooding river thundering down the valley 
below. This is the time when small things are your only con- 
solation. Your eye rests on an ant dashing up and down a twig 
floating on a pool. The plight of the little insect stimulates a 
morbid curiosity and you watch it for minutes, wondering when 
it will be swept away to its doom. Then you suddenly feel sorry 
for it and fish the twig gently out of the puddle so that the 
ant can crawl away to safety. Or your eye is attracted to a 
particular leaf from which water is dropping with monotonous 
regularity. You count the drops until this seems futile, and then 
your thoughts return again to the cold and misery of everything. 

The rain continues into the night. Then the thunder rumbles 
and, as it fades away, you hear the trumpeting of frightened 
elephants. Sometimes they are so near that their trumpeting is 
almost as loud as the thunder. You wonder which way they 
are moving and whether it will be possible to hear them above 
the noise of the rain if they get really dose. Then the thunder 
stops and the elephants are silent Only the patter of the rain- 
drops and the roar of the torrent in the valley below break the 
hush of the forest, from which all the familiar noises have van- 


I usually found that the best distraction came from a group 
of friendly terrorists. Hardened to all discomforts, they showed 
no reaction to rain, heat, or cold. They never worried about 
being hungry or cold or wet through to the skin- I watched 
them sleep soundly on a saturated layer of leaves and twigs 
with rain pouring straight down on them. They would wake 
up fresh and cheerful ready for another day of dampness. With 
the terrorists, pride became your strongest ally. 

Yet when the rain stops your spirits soon rise and life in the 
forest seems better than ever. The sun brings warmth, and the 
birds come out, the trees begin to stir in the breeze, shaking 
off the rain water trapped in their leaves, and the little buck 
come out into the glades to frisk and get warm. The musty gases 
rise from the compost and mulch to mingle with the odour of 
sweet-smelling Cape Chestnut trees, giving the forest an aroma 
of its own. Everywhere there is beauty in abundance and a 
freshness of life. Everything is great and majestic and remote 
from the rush and noise of civilisation. Here there is nothing 
to see or hear but nature in its naked form, unspoilt by man. 
This, one realises, is paradise. It is the land of mountains and 
rivers and trees and all things wild, but it is a wonderful land, 
and God is good. 

Before the rains come the terrorists prepare themselves. They 
know that it is difficult to conceal your tracks when the ground 
is wet, so they gather as much food as they can and store it 
away in caves and hollowed-out trees; they lift their game traps 
and rig them up nearer to their hideouts; they hunt for honey 
and, after collecting enough to see them over the wet season, 
roll it in thick animal skins to prevent badgers from getting at 


Before the rain pelts down and the rivers run high, they also 
move their hideouts away from the bigger streams and set them 
up again beside little springs, for they know that the noise made 
by rivers in flood will drown the sound of an approaching en- 
emy. They put their hideouts in parts of the forest where rain 
or hail will not flatten the undergrowth and where the ground 


is covered with a thick bed of leaves and bark which will mask 
their footprints when they go out to visit their game traps, their 
letter boxes, or their food stores. They know that elephant and 
rhino will now come down the mountain towards the low farm- 
ing country in their seasonal migration to feed on the young, 
green crops. During this migration the animals will churn up 
all the places where there are natural salt licks, pools of water, 
or patches of muondwe. All these places have to be avoided, 
therefore, when new hideouts are being chosen. 

They know, too, that even if they have plenty of honey it 
will still be necessary to trap buck for meat. All the places in the 
jungle where a shrub called magomboki is growing will be bad 
for trapping, for, soon after the beginning of the rains, this will 
become so thick and matted that buck will not pass through it. 
New trapping areas where there is no magomboki have to be 

They also have to think about firewood. Wood dampened by 
rain will give out too much smoke, and they know that smoke 
is dangerous, for it helps their enemies to find them. They must, 
therefore, have their hideouts in or near the bamboo belt, as 
bamboo is their ideal firewood, whether wet or dry. 

While the rains do not bring about any change in terrorist 
morale, they do cause a marked change in their mode of living. 
Like snakes, they recoil and are harder to see. Like mushrooms, 
they shrivel up, change colour, and become invisible in the 
seed bed. Yet for those who have lived through these seasonal 
changes and who know the factors which govern the Mau Mau 
moods and moves, rain simplifies the hunt. It did for our collab- 
orators. They were able to write off all parts of the forest where 
magomboki grew in quantity, where there were pools and salt 
licks and fast-running rivers, where the vegetation was flimsy 
and where there were elephant walks and where muondwe 
thrived. They knew the Mau Mau would be near springs 
where the water was silent and clean, where bushbuck and 
duiker could be trapped, where bamboo firewood could be 


found, and where there were trees which shed their leaves. 

With all this and more knowledge in their heads, our collab- 
orators were able to narrow down the Kimathi area very con- 
siderably until we had a target area to concentrate in of about 
fifty square miles. Unfortunately this new smaller target area 
consisted of no less then eight small portions of forest. Kimathi 
could be in any one of them. 

Three of these were in the western sector, the Mwathe. The 
remaining five were in the eastern section, the Tree Tops Sali- 
ent. The more we studied the matter, the more we realised 
that it was impossible to search for him in them all simultane- 
ously. We only had enough men to operate in five areas at 
once, and even five was stretching us to the limit. We therefore 
planned a deception operation, to chase him out of any of the 
three areas in the Mwathe into any of the five areas in the 
Tree Tops where hunting conditions were slightly better. We 
would try and frighten him by firing machine guns in the west- 
ern region. The shots would be heard by Kimathi, if he were 
there, and he would imagine that a major operation had been 
mounted. This would send him scurrying down to the Tree 
Tops Salient. 

There was no question of installing ourselves in the five Tree 
Tops bits before all the noise was made in the west We knew 
that if we were to move in before he came down, he would 
not come down at all. This may seem extraordinary, but there 
was good reason for it. We knew how difficult it was to conceal 
our own tracks in the jungle, how much more difficult it would 
be to conceal them from the expert Kimathi, and how the whole 
idea would be wrecked if he happened to see the tracks we 
had left while moving in. He would double back, and wherever 
he went he would remain on the alert. Moreover, it was a 
foregone conclusion that if our deception plan did succeed in 
chasing him down into the Tree Tops, he would spend the 
first two days searching through the forest to see if the area 
was clear and safe. During that time he or his men would be 


certain to find evidence of our presence. But if we stayed out 
until he had completed his check and settled down, our chances 
of making contact with him would be much greater. His sentry 
lines would be shorter, he would cook, and he would put out 
his game traps. This would help us to find him. 

It was pelting with rain when we mounted the first phase 
of our operation. Slipping and sliding along in the mud, we 
had to use both our hands to cling to the bamboo poles. This 
was my first experience of operating in those particular parts 
of the Mwathe forest during the rains and I shall never forget 
it The place was teeming with rhino. More than two forest 
rhino are seldom seen at one time, but on that day we found 
them in groups of up to eight Every few hundred yards there 
would be a snort, followed by another snort as the massive 
beasts came hurtling down on us with their ears flattened 
against their heads and their horns ripping out the vegetation 
in front of them. It was a nightmare! After the first two or three 
narrow escapes we found it far safer to drop everything and 
take to the trees as soon as the first snort was heard. As we 
moved along our eyes darted from one tree to another in an 
anxious search for those we could climb without too much diffi- 
culty. We had our guns in our hands, and this meant that we 
could not grab the bamboo with both hands. Every few yards 
someone fell, and the noise of our stumbling and falling made 
it very difficult to hear the snorts of the rhino. As the timing 
of the firing was carefully synchronised, I had made a point of 
stressing to our men that there was to be no shooting under any 
circumstances until zero hour. After being put to flight several 
times in the first mile by charging rhino, I deeply regretted 
having said this. Our g-mm. Patchett automatics would have 
been little better than pea-shooters against rhino, but their loud 
clatter might have frightened the beasts away. 

Our agile terrorists were natural experts at dodging and tree 
climbing, which usually meant that Mac and I reached the trees 
well behind them and could only hoist ourselves off the ground 


by clutching at their wet skin clothes and pulling ourselves up 
or pulling them down. They said it was only because "we did 
not smell of the forest," as they did, that the rhino charged 
us so frequently, and although I never knew how much truth 
there was in this, I suspected that they might be right When 
they operated alone they seldom had trouble with game. On 
the other hand, it was likely that the rain was the cause of the 
rhino's ferocity. How, I wondered, could any terrorist survive 
for long in this murderous region. After all the bombing and 
strafing of the forests there were a great many wounded ani- 
mals about. Now their injuries had healed, but the pain they 
had gone through had turned them into ill-tempered rogues* 

This was certainly one of those rare days when everything 
was against us. The rain was unusually heavy, so heavy in 
fact that each drop stung slightly as it landed on our arms and 
faces; the going was painfully hard, and our various guides 
seemed quite incapable of avoiding the many patches of wild 
nettle, which covered our arms, faces, and legs with ugly, in- 
flamed rashes. The design of our Patchetts did not improve our 
tempers. With "arms" and 'legs" jutting out from all sides, this 
gun either catches on branches and delays your retreat or jabs 
you severely in the ribs or stomach as you run away. 

Despite the trials, however, the operation went off according 
to plan, and at exactly midday the first loud burst of firing rang 
through the forest. Then at five-minute intervals for the next 
half hour firing continued at different points throughout the 
area. The noise echoed and thundered down the deep gorges. 
If any Mau Mau were in the region, they would not be there 


After each volley the elephant could be heard trumpeting, 
and schools of monkeys leapt frantically from the trees into the 
bamboo undergrowth beneath. There is something mysterious 
about the sound of gunfire in the jungle. Not only do the re- 
ports seem much louder, but they awaken within you the 
thought that every living creature for miles and miles is on the 


alert and terrified, and this makes you feel unnerved and faintly 

With this operation completed, the stage was now set for our 
first offensive against Dedan Kimathi and his fifty dangerous 
adherents. We were ready and anxious. 



Riu ni thatu, no riu ring* ni mbura ya malugcL 

Today it is misty, but afterwards it wifl rain hailstones, 

Stormy days lie ahead. 

ON THE EIGHTEENTH of April, 1956, the finishing touches were 
put to the planning and preparations of our first direct opera- 
tion against Dedan Kimathi and his gang. Twenty-two of our 
terrorists had been specially selected for the operation. They 
were the men who knew every member of Krmathfs gang, those 
who knew the ground in the Tree Tops Salient best, those who 
were the best trackers, and those who were completely trust- 
worthy, battle-hardened, and brave. 

These men were to operate in two teams, each eleven strong. 
Four men in each were to be armed with automatic weapons, 
while the balance were to carry pistols and simis and one or 
two homemade guns, for effect. Their rations had been securely 
packed away in their animal-skin bags, and their leaders had 
carefully checked their clothing for anything which might give 
them awaya match, pieces of paper, and the many other 
things which they could have picked up easily when outside 
the forest. A strong-smelling native tobacco called kiraiku, used 


by Mau Mau in the forest, was rubbed over their bodies to 
drown any non-forest smells, and all traces of dust were brushed 
away, as there is no dust in the Aberdares. Their simis and 
knives were splattered with goat's blood, because no knife in 
the forest is clean. 

This odd and somewhat frightening array of Mau Mau was 
assembled in a tent at our Mayfield base, where I explained 
to them which areas we had sealed off for our operations and 
which were still open to normal security-force operations, and 
therefore dangerous to enter. I explained where Mac, Gethieya, 
and I would go each day to rendezvous with them, where in 
the forest we would base ourselves, and how they were to iden- 
tify themselves to us and we to them, in the event of our run- 
ning into one another unexpectedly. I emphasised that their 
task was not to get Kimathi this time, for we realised this was 
impossible while so many terrorists were guarding him. Our 
aim was to snatch one or more of his henchmen without the 
rest of the gang knowing of our snatch; We would then with- 
draw quickly to one of the prearranged rendezvous and try 
to win over whoever had fallen into our hands. It was unneces- 
sary for me to say any more to our men. All specific points, 
such as how the two teams would work and liaise with one 
another, what they would do in the event of a battle or a chase, 
how they would approach their target areas, and what they 
would do if they came upon any game trap, letter boxes, or 
food stores, were left to them to sort out among themselves. 
In my experience it merely confused these unusual people if a 
European interfered in such matters. Their ideas about tactics 
were poles apart from ours, and their methods were strange. 
The issue boiled down to this the Mau Mau knew their own 
kind and the jungle in which they lived. 

After I had said my few words one of the team leaders moved 
into the middle of the tent and gathered all those taking part 
in the operation round him in a circle. With legs crossed and 
weapons on their laps, they sat down for the conference as they 
had done hundreds of times before in the forest. When a team 


leader or an ordinary team member spoke he would hold in 
his left hand a number of thin sticks about a foot long, and as 
he made a point, or said something important, he would take 
one of the sticks in his right hand and flick it on to the ground. 

Gati was the first to speak. "You, Njeru," he said, "you cross 
the ford with Hungu's mbutu [gang or team] and go through 
the Mathakwa-ini area." This was his first point, so he flicked 
a stick on to the ground. "But where the bkck forest and bam- 
boo meet, watch the ridge which goes down towards the place 
where the grass was burnt" Down went another stick. 

"Noguo" answered Njeru, picking up the two sticks to signify 
that both points were understood. Now Njeru came into the 
centre, and as he flicked a stick on to the ground he said to 
another, Wanjau, "You know the place where we turn before 
the river, where there is a tree which has had all its bark 
scraped of! by an elephant Nobody should pass there.** 

"There is nobody here who doesn't know it,** interrupted one 
of the listeners, picking up Njeru*s stick 

Then Ruku took over a bundle of the sticks and went into 
the middle. "There is a place where they used to trap hyrax 
among some munderendu trees you can see Chania hill from 
there and the waterfall on the Gura can be heard.** 

"By the little bluff?" inquired Kibata. 

"Aca, further on a little where the muondtoe reaches here,** 
replied Ruku, holding his throat 

"Yes, we know it,** chimed several voices. 

'Well," said Ruku, casting down a stick, "behind there we 
should be very careful, because they might be there, and it is 
impossible to cover up tracks.** 

"Nogtto, nogtw)/* everyone agreed. 

For nearly two hours this mysterious discussion continued, 
with sticks being thrown down and picked up in strict, cere- 
monial order. TTiey had talked about places where a certain 
type of tree had fallen, where such and such a terrorist's trap 
had broken, where ammunition used to be hidden in an ele- 
phant's skull, where two waterfalls could be heard at the same 


time; they talked about a well-known place for finding kirangi, 
a type of fungus which grows around bamboo poles and is used 
for medicinal purposes, where a certain very important spring 
was situated, and where there were poisonous plants; they even 
talked about "a valley of echoes" and the whistling calls of the 
night birds. To us it was incomprehensible, but their system 
worked. With no set order of speaking, for the procedure al- 
lowed anyone to speak whenever he wanted to, they were able 
to have a full exchange of views and ideas. This meant that 
every detail was thoroughly understood and examined before 
it was passed. But the rules were strict. No one uttered a word 
before the speaker had finished his point, unless he was not 
clear about something. Only when a stick had been thrown to 
the ground could another man rise to say his bit. If three men 
wanted to speak simultaneously, there would be no scramble 
for a stick; the terrorist nearest to the stick would have prior- 
ity, and the others would not argue about it. They knew their 
turn would come in good time. In any case their system was 
such that there was every chance of someone else making their 
points for them, because from beginning to end the emphasis 
was on thoroughness. But there was another reason for the cus- 
tomary restraint shown in the picking up of sticks a stick was 
only cast down to mark essential and important points in a 
speech. Unless a point was important enough to, warrant a stick, 
it was not important enough to be mentioned at all. If one tried 
to talk too long, and if the points he was making did not warrant 
the sticks he was throwing down, he would have his sticks taken 
away from him. This was a severe humiliation, and one which 
marked the offender as a person unsuited "to be among men." 
If this happened in the forest, he might be thrown out of the 
gang. This rule had the effect, therefore, of restricting debate 
to only the main and essential issues. It also dissuaded all but 
the most foolhardy from standing up and talking a lot of non- 

When the time eventually came to rise, when everything 
that was to be said had been said, and when all the sticks lay 


on the ground and nobody wanted to pick one up, Gati moved 
into the centre of the circle again. Moving his finger slowly 
round the gathering like the hand of a clock, he asked all pres- 
ent, "Have we arrived at the roots?" 

"Yes," chanted the audience. "At the ones which reach down 
to the rocks." 

That was the end of the affair. They had dealt with it from 
its highest branches all the way down to Its lowest roots, the 
roots which reach to the rocks. 

Long after dark that night the teams made their way silently 
into the jungle. They set off from our transport in one long line* 
Each one of them shook hands with us as they left, but only 
Gati and Hungu spoke. These two team leaders had quite a lot 
to say at that final moment, and as they talked on and on, I 
wondered how they could ever hope to catch up with their 
teams again. This did not worry them, however. They knew 
the answers. When they too had gone, Mac, Gethieya, and I 
drove on in the darkness without using our lights until we 
reached the point where the track entered the forest, and there 
we left our vehicles. That same night the three of us tramped 
many miles through the forest until we reached the place where 
we were to rendezvous later with our teams. 

For the first thirty-six hours the hunt was uneventful. Four 
of the likely areas fc in the salient were searched, but without 
result. The fifth we avoided because there were too many noisy 
Sykes monkeys about, and we feared that they would betray 
the hunters by their calls. We visited every spot where Kimatibi 
had camped in the days when Kinyua (one of the two messen- 
gers who had deserted and joined Kahiu Itina) had been in 
the gang, but no trace of Kimathi was found anywhere. 

On the afternoon of the second day the teams met at a pre- 
arranged point in the forest, and a council of war was held. 
Here it was decided that Hungu's team would cut across the 
salient to the Ruhotie valley in the north, while Gati would go 
back with his men to the area they had previously avoided be- 
cause of the Sykes monkeys. Gati had a strong urge to go there; 


not only was it the only one of the five target areas they had 
not been to, but he suspected that the cunning Kimathi might 
lie up close to the trees full of Sykes monkeys, so that they 
could warn him if anyone entered the region. He had been 
known to shadow game before in order to protect himself. Dur- 
ing "Operation Sledgehammer," when large numbers of troops 
and police, assisted by tribal police and Kikuyu loyalists, had 
swept through the forests, he had tailed a small herd of elephant, 
knowing that the animals would not wander through parts of 
the jungle where the security forces were operating, and that 
even if they did encounter a patrol^ the elephant would raise 
the alarm. And so the two teams parted. Throughout the opera- 
tion they never came into contact with one another again. 

The area for which Gati now set course was known to the 
Mau Mau as Kahare-ini because of the unusually large number 
of tree squirrels which live there. To reach it he had to cross 
three rivers, and after the rains there were only two or three 
fords on each which were still passable. While the team was 
crossing the third of these rivers, the Itha, at about midday on 
the twenty-first of April, the first evidence of Kimathi's pres- 
ence was found. On the southern bank, where buffalo had 
watered and churned up the muddy ground, they saw the 
tracks of a sizeable gang. The tracks were very fresh, certainly 
not more than three hours old, and in the tracks were several 
distinct impressions made by a pair of sandals cut out of an 
old motorcar tyre. One of the very few terrorists who owned 
such sandals was Wambararia, Kimathi's brother. 

For some distance from the river the tracks were easy to 
follow. The gang knew" that when it was dark, herds of buffalo 
would come down to the water and churn up the ground once 
again with their hooves. But after about a mile they branched 
off the buffalo path which they were following. Now the trail 
was well hidden, and it was only after Gati amd his men had 
studied the tracks for many minutes that they discovered the 
gang had split into two groups. Gati decided to divide up his 
team and follow both. 


This proved unwise, for after following one set of the tracks 
some short distance, the smaller of our two units, the one that 
Gati was not with, suddenly found they had stumbled on to a 
hideout and were being watched by some of Kimathfs well- 
armed gangsters. As our men walked on, blissfully unaware of 
their danger, Kimathi's men aimed their guns. 

Finally one of the gangsters shouted: "Stand where you ares, 
and send one man up." It was Jeriko, one of Kimathi's lieu- 
tenants. Everyone in our little team froze with fright. They saw 
they were covered by the rifles of the gang; they knew they 
were far outnumbered and that it would be suicide for them to 

After some prompting and nudging, the leading collaborator, 
whose name was Kingarua, went forward unwillingly. He was 
shivering with fright. He walked forward slowly and stopped 
beside a smouldering fire in the centre of the hideout "Tutiri 
na uuru [We have nothing bad]!" he said repeatedly as he 
stood there, but there was no response. 

Then after a few minutes, Jeriko's voice suddenly blurted 
out again. "What are you looking for, you ticks?" 

"Ac0," replied Kingarua. "We are only looking for others." 

"Which others?" 

"Aea," answered Kingarua. "Only others who were with us 
when we went to find food in the reserve." 

Again there was a long silence. Kingarua felt like running, 
but he knew he would be the first to be killed if he did so. 
He wanted to look back to make sure that his companions were 
still there, but felt this might make the gangsters think that 
he was planning to make a break and would also mean his 
death. Behind him our men ware breathing easier, for they 
reckoned that if Jeriko had not believed Kingarua he would 
have opened fire long ago. 

For five minutes nothing happened. There was not a sound 
from the forest Once Kingarua thought he heard someone 
whispering, but he was not sure. Then there was a loud rustling 


in the bushes about twenty yards ahead of Kingarua, and Jeriko 
stepped out carrying a .303 rifle. Three other terrorists, all 
armed, were close behind him. They bore down on poor Kin- 
garua, who was sure that his last day had come. 

"What I have told you is true, Jeriko, because if I was lying 
we would have run away," pleaded Kingarua. 

"I am not arguing/* replied Jeriko, who came right up to 
Kingarua before stopping within a yard of him and dropping 
the butt of his rifle on the ground. "Who are the ones you are 
looking for?" he asked. 

Kingarua thought fast. He had to invent a story. He began 
telling Jeriko how he had left the Moorlands four days before 
and gone down to the Kikuyu reserve to find food, how they 
had asked some old women working on their plots along the 
forest edge to fetch them some potatoes, how these women 
had run away screaming, and how, after this, he and his com- 
panions had moved further down the forest edge until they 
were opposite a large banana plantation. On and on Kingarua 
talked. Like all Mau Mau, he knew how to spin out a yarn, 
and would come to the point only if he was pressed to do so. 
He knew that if he talked long enough in a convincing way, 
the question he had been asked would probably be forgotten 
altogether. He was still talking when Jeriko interrupted. 

"Ssst!" he silenced Kingarua. He had heard the drone of a 
Piper Pacer aircraft. The noise grew louder and louder. It 
seemed* to be overhead. 

The aircraft was not connected with our operation, but Ki- 
mathi's suspicious men instantly thought in terms of air support 
for ground forces, probably a supply drop for a pseudo-gang. 
Something, they thought, was up. Their reaction was swift. 
Kingarua was grabbed, hit on the head, and thrown to the 
ground. Firing came from the forest round about. Some of 
Jeriko's men jumped from their hiding places and charged up 
the hill towards the rest of our men. One of them fired at Kin- 
garua, lying on the ground. Others fired at the group. Our men 


threw themselves down in the grass, pulled out their Patchett 
guns, which had been hidden under their skin garments, and 
fired burst after burst in rapid succession at the men around 

The weight of the fire must have come as a great shock to 
the gangsters, who had not seen any of the weapons carried 
by our men. Like leaves in a wind eddy they scattered into the 
forest. Everything was over in those few seconds. The gang 
had vanished into the jungle, but behind them they had left 
one of Kimathf s so-called brigadiers named Thurura, who was 
lying beside the fire groaning, with a bullet wound in his back. 
Our men could see that Thurura was too badly injured to move. 
They were sure that they must have hit some others and rushed 
forward into the forest after the gang. There was a running 
fight Now and then they caught fleeting glimpses of Kimathfs 
men and fired at them. Every few hundred yards Kimathfs 
men paused to shoot back. For nearly three quarters of an hour 
and over four miles the plucky litfle group continued on the 
heels of their enemy. Several hundred rounds were fired, and 
the noise was tremendous. Eventually, fearing they would run 
out of ammunition, our men broke off and ran back to the hide- 
out to collect Thurura. 

Gati was waiting for them when they got back. He and his 
team had arrived a few minutes before. The set of tracks he 
had followed took them to the same hideout, but they had 
been too late for the battle. All they had seen were the empty 
cartridge cases lying about and a trail of blood leading from 
the fire to a thick patch of thornbush. Gati had followed the 
trail, and as he parted the thorny branches with the muzzle of 
his gun he had seen Thurura, the wounded brigadier, stuffing a 
wad of documents into his mouth. Gati had jumped in, pried 
Thurura's mouth open with a sheath knife, and pulled out the 
half-chewed documents before he could swallow them. 

Supported by a man on either side, Thurura was carried 
away that afternoon, and by dusk the team had gone a long way 


towards the rendezvous where we were to meet them. At their 
resting place in the forest that night, the wretched Kingarua, 
who had so narrowly escaped death at the hands of Kimathfs 
gang during the day, stubbornly insisted that it was his personal 
right to strangle Thurura without delay. He kept on trying to 
carry out his threat until he was warned that he would be shot 
unless he kept silent When he heard this he spat several times 
on the ground in utter disgust and then walked away from our 
team. He spent the night sitting alone under a tree, muttering 
periodic threats that he would definitely strangle Thurura one 

Round the fire that night Thurura was questioned thor- 
oughly. Every time he spoke a word the ill-tempered Kingarua 
would shout out, "All that is lies. He should be buried!" But 
Thurura paid no attention to him. Quietly, he told his story. 
The group he had been with was seventeen strong, and had 
not included Kimatihi, who had been about five miles further 
east with the rest of his gang when the firing broke out. He 
would certainly have received news of the action by now, even 
had he not heard the shooting, so there was no point in follow- 
ing him. Thurura spent the night handcuffed to a tree, while 
the team dozed in a circle round him. At first light they set 
off to meet us at the rendezvous, carrying him on a bamboo 

By the time Thurura reached us he was in very poor shape, 
and Kingarua, needless to say, was delighted. The wound in 
Thurura's back had bled profusely all night. He was semi- 
delirious. From the colour of the blood he was coughing up, it 
was clear that the bullet had passed through his lungs. He was 
so far gone that he was quite unable to show any concern when 
the malevolent Kingarua returned to the attack and asked me, 
in Thurura's hearing, whether he could now strangle him. Mac 
immediately got down to first aid and dressed the wound most 
expertly. I had often meant to ask him, because his knowledge 
of medicine always astounded me, why he had chosen the 

Ian Henderson, G.M. 

Looking down on the lakes of Kanjema on the Aberdare Moor- 
lands, where Kimathi dreamt of his capture on Rurimeria Hill 

Kinarni Base Camp, from where the final operation against 
Kimathi was mounted 

Kikuyu witch doctor during cleansing ceremony 
(Hulton Picture Library) 

A lookout point in the Mathakwa-ini area, with pseudo-terrorist 
keeping a watering place under observation 

Checking one of Dedan Kimathi's "posts" or 'letter boxes" in 
the Mwathe region 

T **,' . * '*.&:' '.;, " . 

.' -*V , > V^&S?-' ; ..', 

Mount Kenya (Department of Information, Nairolri) 
Inside the bamboo in the Zaina valley 

Dedan Kimathi during his trial at Nyeri (R. V. Gillman) 


police as a career when he could have found a more lucrative, 
and certainly more comfortable, occupation as a doctor. 

Thurura was tough. With some brandy down his throat, some 
food in his stomach, and his wound cleaned and dressed, he 
revived amazingly quickly. After two or three hours he insisted 
on sitting up and talking. He told us that we should swing our 
operations into the Mwathe region where we had previously 
staged the deception operation, which, incidentally, he said had 
worked like a magic wand. That was where Kimaihi would now 
return. On the strength of this, we withdrew both teams from 
the Tree Tops Salient and spent the next three days searching 
unsuccessfully through the Mwathe forest We were pestered 
by rhino and found in the end that we had been led on to a 
false trail. Thurura knew Kimathi would not go back up there 
so quickly and had misled us deliberately to give his leader 
more time to get away. This amused me more than it did Kin- 
garua, who once again talked of strangling Thurura. To tarn^ 
this was the last straw. He became so preoccupied with the 
thought of murder that we had to segregate fr and keep hi 
under watch for some time to come. 

Although half Gatf s team had been compromised in the eyes 
of Kimathfs gang by this engagement and could not be used 
against the gang again, we were not too disappointed with the 
result of this first operation. The documents pulled out of 
Thurura's mouth showed that Kfmatbi was loth to leave the 
Tree Tops Salient and the Mwathe, as Kahiu Itina's men had 
told us. In fact, one particular document a letter he had scrib- 
bled to Jeriko a few days before ordered Jeriko not to leave 
these two areas "even if the enemy came like a swarm of 
locusts/' Another note told Jeriko to be at a point on the KI- 
naini River on a certain date "because the district commissioner 
would be coming to tea!!" 

Thurura, however, gave us a depressing account of Kimathfs 
tactics and precautions, which he genuinely believed were 
foolproof. He politely refused to concede that secretly captor- 


ing any of his men was a practicable proposition. "Even if Ki- 
matihi is eventually killed or captured," Thurura insisted, "lie 
will be the last terrorist in the Aberdares." 

This was our first engagement with the gang, or, more ac- 
curately, with part of it, and discussion on the topic ran high 
for several days. Many of our men who came from the Nyeri 
district, to which Kimathi himself belonged, seemed less en- 
thusiastic about the idea of hunting him now that it was clear 
that he had so much ammunition. They believed that if Ki- 
mathi had been with Jeriko during the fight, his men would 
have fought even more ferociously, and our small team would 
have been shot to pieces. The attitude of our men from the 
Fort Hall district, on the other hand, was quite different They 
thought Jeriko's flight was a sign that the gangsters were not 
as resolute as they had thought, and this led our Fort Hall men 
to think that if they were very well armed themselves, they 
could deal with the gang. Because of this split in our ranks, we 
decided that we would try to use as many Fort Hall terrorists 
as possible against Kimathi in subsequent operations. It was, 
after all, the Fort Hall people who had borne the brunt of Ki- 
mathf s savagery in the forest. 

The question of whether or not Gati had been right to split 
up his team was debated at great length by our terrorists. The 
majority held the view that in future it would be preferable to 
risk losing contact and keep our teams intact, rather than divide 
up into small, vulnerable groups. I was fully in agreement with 
this. I didn't want to lose any of our own Mau Mau or the 
firearms we had issued to them. We could not afford to add to 
our risks by committing small units against Kimathf s powerful 

It was also agreed that on all future occasions one member 
of our teams would travel several yards in front to reduce the 
risk of the whole team being pinned down and compromised, 
as was the case in the action with Jeriko. There were the usual 
jokes when some far-thinking individual asked whether he 
could bring up the rear in future. 


Naturally the Piper Pacer came in for severe criticism. "It 
is very bad/* said Waira, "for anyone to come and flap his wings 
and dangle his legs near Kimathi, because he might become 
so annoyed he will finish us all" I arranged with the appropri- 
ate authorities that "nobody would flap his wings and dangle 
his legs" over any area in which, we were operating from then 



Karakunywo niko koi kwigita. 

He who is pinched knows how to defend himself. 

Scalded cats fear even cold water. 

THE NEWS OF THE BATTLE with Jeriko came as a great shock 
to Kimathi. He was sitting alone, reading his Kikuyu version 
of the Old Testament, when the first man to get back from 
the fight came running up to his sentries and gave the alarm. 
Kimathi jumped up, and without waiting to hear more of the 
details, disappeared into the forest as fast as his legs could 
carry him, leaving his Bible on the ground. By the time Jeriko 
and the rest of his followers arrived, Kimathi was a long way 
away, threading a course through the forest which kept him 
mostly on his hands and knees. 

For two whole days his men looked for him, visiting the letter 
boxes they thought he might use, the places he had said he 
liked, the game traps from which he might have taken a dead 
buck to eat, but there was no sign of him anywhere. On the 
night of the second day, as some of his searchers were quietly 
warming themselves round a fire in a particularly thick patch 
of forest near the Muringato River, his high-pitched, almost 


feminine, voice cut through the darkness, "Name all those with 

His brother, Wambararia, stood up and gave his own name, 
then the names of the five others who were with him: "There 
is Abdalla, whom you know because of his thin legs; Ngunyi, 
the one with a broken sheath for his knife; Gitahi, the child 
who is fierce; Mbaka, who was sick when you left Only Karau 
remains. He brought the honey from the Zaina. There are no 
others. We have been looking for you." 

When Kimathi heard this he was satisfied, for he knew the 
details were correct and he recognised the voice of his brother. 
Coming straight over to the fire, he licked his finger and 
touched each of his men on the forehead. 

"I know if any of you have been bought by the government 
while I have been away this saliva will boil on your heads and 
burn you to the brain," he said. There is nothing like that, 
muthee [elder],** Wambararia respectfully assured him. 

Kimathi walked round the fireplace to get on the windward 
side where the smoke would not bother him, ordered one of 
his men to move out of his way, then sat down and gazed at 
the burning logs and sticks, 

"We have looked far for you," said Wambararia. "We were 
wondering whether we would ever see you again," 

"You look far, Wambararia, only when you have no food left," 
replied Kimathi. 

The tone of his voice was soft, so Wambararia knew his 
brother was not really angry, and he tried to argue the point. 
"We also have been without food since yesterday, but we have 
still been searching for you." 

"Speak the truth!" Kimathi retorted. His voice this time was 
louder, and it was plain that Wambararia had started some- 
thing he would regret He had roused Kimathi by answering 
back. He had put himself in the dock, and would have to find 
his own way out 

That is the truth, muthee," pleaded Wambararia* "And Ngai 


knows it because he brought us together again. We went all 
the way to Karia-ini, then down through " 

"Shut up, you bastard," interrupted Kimathi in English. With 
that he leaned forward and picked up one of the burning 
sticks of bamboo from the fire. Holding it in both hands he 
probed in the ashes and scraped out a bit of scorched bone 
which he must have seen when he sat down, a bit of bone which 
his men had thrown into the fire after they had chewed the 
meat off it "What is this?" he asked, looking at Wambararia 
and tapping the bone with the tip of his stick 

When it was obvious that Kimathi had found him out, 
Wambararia turned cold with fright and begged his brother 
to forgive him. The bone, he said, was the only food they had 
eaten. But his pleas made no impression on Kimathi, who, with- 
out saying another word, stretched across and thrust the red 
hot end of the stick into his face. Wambararia's cheek and lips 
were burnt, and hot embers fell into his skin jacket. 

"Nidhera, niahera" chimed the others, meaning that he had 
been sufficiently punished. After that nobody said another 
word. While Kimathi slept peacefully that night, his men re- 
mained on guard round about him, listening to the noises in 
the forest, thankful that their leader had been found. 

The next morning after the dew had dried on the grass, Ki- 
mathi was led by Wambararia to the rest of his gang. It was 
not until the evening of the twenty-third of April, the day we 
abandoned our fruitless search for him in the Mwathe region 
to the west, that he summoned Jeriko to give him a full account 
of the Itha River battle. The names of those of our men who 
had been identified were recorded in his little red diary, and 
he ordered his henchmen to kill them whenever they were seen 
again "before one is given time to blink." Then prayers were 
said throughout the night, and Ngai was thanked many times 
for having kept Kimathi from accompanying Jeriko on that 
fateful day. 

The next morning, after Jeriko was out of sight and earshot, 
Kimathi had the men brought before hfn^ one at a time. He 


questioned each one closely, and accused them of being traitors. 
We soon discovered that this was typical of Kimathi, who in- 
variably suspected there was a spy in his camp when his gang 
suffered casualties. 

During the questioning Kimathi discovered that some of his 
men had come upon elephant tracks during their flight towards 
Kimathf s hideout and, to hide traces of their own tracks, had 
stepped inside the hard, dry prints of the elephant When Ki- 
mathi heard this he was horrified. He was sure it was an omen 
of ill fortune to tread on the tracks of an elephant In a fit of an- 
ger he ordered all the honey in the camp to be brought and 
sprinkled on the feet of those who had used the elephant traiL 
Only this would appease the evil spirits. Then he chased every- 
one away and sat down alone to study a tattered and soiled 
copy of Napoleons Book of Charms in which he had implicit 
faith. There he worked out what to do next: He decided he 
had to move quickly to a new area. 

It was the fifth of May before we were ready to launch our 
next operation against Kimathi, Once again we used two teams 
of eleven men, but on this occasion we armed them to the teeth 
and replaced those who had been compromised with others 
who had not For several days we concentrated on the Kahare- 
ini sector and on the forest areas between the Itha and Mur- 
ingato rivers. We found the hideout Kimathi had been in when 
Jeriko's party were encountered and the traces of honey spilt 
on to the ground when those who had followed the elephant 
trail were cleansed. 

What a difference there was between this hideout and one 
of Kimathf s I had seen in the Zaina valley in August 1953. That 
had been a most elaborate affair. It consisted of seven bamboo 
huts, two of them almost ten feet square and the rest half this 
size. There were doors in all four walls of each hut to allow for 
a speedy getaway. The roofs were rainproof; the walls were 
windproof . In his own particular hut Kimathi had a bed, a table, 
several log stools, and a mosquito net, which he sat under when 
he had his meals so that the horseflies would not bother 


Though the old site had been some distance from the near- 
est river, he had laid in adequate supplies of water. From a 
spring seventy yards uphill, he ran a chain of hollowed-out bam- 
boo poles down to one of the huts. All day and all night fresh 
water trickled down the pipe. There was a large food store, 
neatly constructed of smooth river stones, manhandled up from 
the river bed. In this he kept his meat cold and fresh and safe 
from rats and other forest scavengers which would easily bite 
through timber. None of the huts were used by his men. The 
other large one was a meeting hall, used only when other terror- 
ist leaders visited him; three of the small ones were cooking 
houses, one for the cooking of his own food, one for the food 
of all the young women he had round him, and one for the 
food of a witch doctor he had with him in those days, a little 
man named Wangombe Ruga, who, when his predictions 
clashed with Kimathf s dreams, surrendered to save his skin. 
Then there was the hut for water and, finally, a pit latrine, 
erected not for purposes of hygiene, but to prevent hyenas 
howling round his camp, as they are attracted by the smell of 
human excreta. All his guards lived in little shelters, built in a 
circle round him, but these were placed well away from his 
central apartments. They did not enter without invitation. 

Hie hideout Kfmatbi had been sitting in when Jeriko's men 
brought him the news of the Itha Biver battle, however, con- 
sisted of literally nothing but a few square yards of cleared 
bush, where grass had been cut and laid for hi and his men 
to sleep on. There was no bed, no stools, no cooking hut, no 
food store* no water point His only protection from the weather 
consisted of a few thin bamboo sticks stuck in the ground at 
both ends and covered with waterbuck skin. 

We went back to Jeriko's hideout, which was very similar, 
in the hope that some of the gang might have returned to look 
for tie documents Thurura had tried to swallow, but the ab- 
sence of tracks showed that nobody had been there since our 
team pulled Thurura from the thornbush and carried him away. 

About a mile northwest of this hideout, however, we found 


a broken and blood-stained stretcher. It was made of two long 
poles interlaced with bamboo and tied with muondwe bark 
and had obviously been discarded when one of the poles had 
snapped. It was right in the middle of the area where the run- 
ning gun fight had taken place, and our men were surprised 
that they had not seen it before. A little further on they found 
traces of more dried blood, now nearly washed away by the 
rain. They found more blood on some large water lily leaves 
near a stream, and it looked as if these leaves had been used 
to wipe the wound of an injured terrorist We realised then 
that Thurura had not been the only casualty among Jeriko's 

It was common knowledge in the forest that Kimathi would 
never allow his movements to be hampered by a wounded 
man, so we began a careful search of the banks of the stream. 
It was obvious that the terrorist must have been very badly 
wounded to need a stretcher, and when it had broken there 
was every likelihood that he had been left near water, as 
Kimathf s gangsters had more than once before put badly 
wounded terrorists beside water to die or recover. But despite 
all efforts the search was unproductive, and we were back to 
where we had started. 

Then only three days before the operation was due to end, 
the pendulum of fortune swung in our favour. Several miles 
inside the forest, one of the teams discovered a recently set 
game snare, and four men were left to ambush it, while the 
balance moved over to the crest of a little hill to lie in wait 
That evening, as the ambushers lay silently beside the trap, 
they heard the bushes rustling as though a small group of men 
was forcing their way through. When our men first heard the 
noise they knew it was Mau Mau, for every few moments the 
rustling stopped and there was silence. This was normal terror- 
ist practice. They were listening for danger. The noise came 
closer and closer, the pauses grew longer and longer. Finally, 
from where they were tying, our men could see the upper 
branches of the bushes shaking. Out stepped two of Kimathi's 


men, who crouched down to peer under the foliage of their 
trap which was no more than thirty feet away. 

"It has not sprung. Let us go on," one whispered, and they 
cautiously went on, passing within arm's reach of one of our 
men lying in ambusk Seconds kter both had reached their 
trap. They touched the trip stick, and the powerful pliant pole 
sprang up with great force. As one set to work on the buck 
path, removing f alien leaves and twigs, the other thrust the trap 
forks deeper into the ground and sharpened the ends of the 
trip stick so that it would give at the faintest touch. Then they 
took hold of the pole and began to bend it back the reverse 
way to give it greater elasticity. At that moment our men 
jumped up, their guns ready. The trappers realised they could 
not escape. One raised his hands high above his head in sur- 
render, while the other let go of the pole and sat down on the 
ground, saying, <c Wooi, wooi, don't kill me. Don't shootl" They 
were handcuffed together. Their trapping exploit was over. 

These were the exact circumstances for which we had 
prayed. This was the type of quiet operation, the "snatch," 
which would bring Kimathi's men secretly into our hands. We 
learnt all about Kimathi s recent behaviour. Shaking with fright, 
the two trappers, Kinanda and Ngomari, told their story so fast 
they hardly paused for breath. Some days after the fight at the 
Itha River, after Kimathi had poured the honey on the feet of 
his followers and studied his Napoleons Book of Charms, he 
split his force of forty-nine terrorists into six separate mbutu or 
sub-gangs to reduce tracks, for he was certain that Thurura 
would give the government much information and that a major 
operation would result According to Kinanda he had then set 
off northwards towards the Amboni Kiver with fifteen men and 
Wanjiru, his woman; Wambararia had moved off with four 
others in another mbutu ; Jeriko had gone away with six; Nyoka 
with six; Juma Abdalla with eight; and Wamuthandi with four. 

Before these mbutu went their various ways, Kimathi told 
them not to leave the Tree Tops Salient, and he ordered the 
leaders to send word when the area was safe for him to return, 


but he warned them not to do this until sufficient time had 
passed to make it improbable that any operation would be 
mounted on Thumra's information. He was to be sent this news 
by way of a certain mururua or Cape Chestnut tree which 
everyone in his gang knew. This tree would be his posta (letter 
box ) . The letter for him was to be left in one of the dark hollows 
of its trunk. 

The two trappers described how they had been in Nyoka's 
mbutu only one day when Nyoka had decided to go on a long 
safari to Wuthering Heights, in the northern Aberdares, where 
game could be trapped more easily, and where there would 
be plenty of honey now that the rains were over. They had 
pleaded with him to allow them to stay in the Tree Tops Salient, 
for if Kimathi were to hear that every man in the mbutu had 
gone to Wuthering Heights he would punish them severely. 
Nyoka had seen reason in this and agreed to their request. 

They had, therefore, been left on their own while Nyoka went 
north, and they did not know where any other members of 
the gang had gone. The news was gratifying, as we realised 
that we could keep our two prisoners for quite a long time be- 
fore the gang suspected that they had been captured. We soon 
made a new plan. One of them was to write a letter to Kunathi 
and we would place it in the mururua letter box. The letter 
would tell him to return to a certain bomb crater which he knew 
well. It would tell him that the Tree Tops Salient was now 
safe. It would tell him that there had been no pseudo-gangs or 
security forces in the forest for some days. But it would not 
tell him that we were going to be waiting at the bomb crater 
when he came. 

Before the team and their two prisoners finally withdrew 
from the forest, Kinanda took them to the terrorist who had 
been carried on the stretcher. After the pole had broken this 
unfortunate individual was carried to the water's edge where 
his wound had been washed with the lily leaves we found. 
Then some thick green leaves were stuffed into his wound to 
check the bleeding, and, after being given some water, he was 


left to his fate. For three nights he lay there, constantly bathing 
his head with the cold stream water to cool his hot body, then, 
feeling a little stronger, he had dragged himself downstream 
in the water for nearly a mile before crawling up the bank into 
the forest where he collapsed. Sick, hungry, and in great pain, 
he had lain there throughout the night, beating off packs of 
hyenas and screaming wildly every time the beasts came close 
to him. Kinanda had heard the screaming, and had asked 
Nyoka if he could go to the aid of the man, but Nyoka had 
refused this request because security forces might be waiting 
nearby. It was not till Nyoka left for Wuthering Heights two 
days later that Kinanda and Ngomari crept up to the place. 
The wounded terrorist was still alive. But his feet had been so 
badly eaten by cane rats that most of the flesh round his ankles 
was gnawed away, and his white ankle bones were protruding 
from the flesh. His stomach was grotesquely swollen, and 
bubbles of blood oozed from his wound whenever he moved. 
His whole body was caked with blood and earth. In a faint, 
barely audible whisper, he told Kinanda and Ngomari his story. 
And they listened to every word with care, for they knew he 
would die, and by the custom of the forest it was very im- 
portant to hear the last words of a dying man. Then, -when he 
had finished, he raised his head a little off the ground, and, 
speaking a little louder, said to Kinanda: "Kill me because of 
the pain. Do not leave without killing me.** And Kinanda 
obeyed, cutting off his head with one swift sweep of his simi. 
That night the hyenas howled louder than ever, and Kinanda 
remembered a saying his old father had once told him: 

Nyota vxi gikuo ndunyotokagwo. 
^Death's thirst is never quenched." 



Nfira ndiraga mugendi "Huruka? 

The road never says to the traveller: "Take a rest" 

THE DAYS AHEAP were frustrating in the extreme. We searched 
in vain all over the Kiraatfai area. We looked on every hill and 
on every ridge, in every valley and in every ravine, but the 
answer was always the same. 

We had already posted Kinanda's letter in the murarua tree, 
but Kimathi had not come to collect it Far north in the Wuth- 
ering Heights region more teams searched for Nyoka in the 
hope that he might know where Kimathi had gone, but again 
we had no luck. 

To add to our miseries, two of our collaborators were killed 
by a wild buffalo. Our team was moving through the forest 
when there was a sudden, violent commotion immediately in 
front of them. Some days before a large buffalo bull bad been 
caught in a Mau Mau snare made of six strands of barbed 
wire rolled together, tied firmly at one end to a heavy stump, 
and looped at the other to fit over the animal's massive head 
and horns as it came along its path. The bull had dragged the 
stump many miles through the forest until it was exhausted. 
The barbs had made deep cuts in its neck, much flesh had 


been torn away, and its forequarters were covered in blood. 

A buffalo is a dangerous beast at the best of times, but this 
bull had been maddened by pain. It had not noticed the ap- 
proach of the team until they were almost upon it. Then it 
erupted with a volcanic lunge of fury. Its horns tore savagely 
at the earth. Branches and bushes were flung high in the air. 

Our men fled to the nearest tree, but the trap wires had 
snapped, and as they ran the buffalo swept down on them. In 
a matter of seconds the first victim had been trampled down 
and gored. A moment later the bull thrust its horns into the 
chest of a second man and shook the life from his body. Then 
the bull was off, crashing into the forest. Its victims were a 
mangled, bleeding mess. Nothing could be done for them* They 
were both dead 

When the news of this tragedy reached me late that after- 
noon, I set off at once, with the remainder of the team, to shoot 
the beast A buffalo in this condition could be a serious menace 
to our men. The heaviest rifle we possessed was a service .303, 
which was by no means an ideal weapon for the job, but we 
had nothing else. First we went back to the spot where the 
buffalo had last been seen. There we examined the broken 
strands of wire on the tree stump and the mutilated bodies of 
our two terrorists. It looked as if every bone in their bodies had 
been broken. The spine of one had been smashed in several 
places, for though he was lying face down on the ground, his 
buttocks and legs were folded back over his head and shoulders. 

After dragging the corpses to the foot of a large tree, we set 
off in search of their killer. At least there was no difficulty in 
f ollowing the buffalo's tracks. Buckets of blood were splattered 
about The bull had, in fact, bled so profusely that the trail was 
a continuous red stream. We had only been gone about twenty 
minutes when we saw him. Part of his back was just visible 
over the top of the grass. He lay still. As soon as we saw this 
we stopped, half expecting him to rise, but there wasn't a 
twitch, Very slowly, I edged my way round the side until I 
could see the back of his neck, and from there I found I was 


also able to make out the outline of his chest For some time I 
stood there to see whether there was any sign of lif e, but still 
there was no movement To make sure, I put a shot through 
the back of his neck before walking forward. The loop of barbed 
wire was still round his neck With that last fatal plunge the 
barbs had cut the buffalo's jugular vein, and he bled to death. 

Two days later another team came on a rhino in one of those 
areas of the Tree Tops Salient where it is foolish to walk unless 
you carry a reasonably heavy rifle. For two hundred yards there 
was not a tree at band, only thick, matted bushes through which 
they could not see and could not run. 

They were almost in the middle of this patch when the rhino 
charged, and, realising that they could not run fast enough, 
OUT men dropped to the ground. As the rhino dashed through 
them with it,, horn just above the ground, it stepped squarely 
on one man's leg, breaking it like a twig, and ripping a huge 
piece of flesh from his thigh. 

When the rhino made its first charge all but the injured man 
scrambled away to safety. He had to watch the animal come 
crashing through the bush towards him again, but this time it 
charged through a collection of skin bags which had been 
dropped by the others. It carried two or three of these on its 
horn for some yards before slinging them into the air. Then 
the rhino disappeared for good. 

As I was talking to a terrorist after this incident, I mentioned 
that all we could do was hope that the rhino and buffalo were 
giving Kimathi an equally tiresome time. "No, Kinyanjui," he 
said in all seriousness. "I think K^gt^T has given them the 
Mau Mau oath." This was the sort of thing the Mau Mau 
thought Kimathi could do. 

Then one of our teams operating high on the Moorlands of 
the Aberdares was surprised to find, as they were slowly climb- 
ing a ridge late one evening, that a gang of terrorists were sing- 
ing to them from the crest of an adjoining ridge a few hundred 
yards away to their left When they stopped to listen, the sing- 
ing also stopped. When they moved on, the singing started 


again. Then one of the singers shouted across the valley to tell 
our team that if any of our men walked towards them they 
would all run away. 

Bewildered by this odd encounter, our team moved on up the 
ridge. This time they walked more slowly in order that they 
could hear what the gang was saying. Much to their annoyance 
the songs were insulting. They were being called "women'* and 
"thirsty goats'* and "porcupines/* Our men were so annoyed by 
the abuse that they decided to go after the singers, but when 
they reached the crest of the other ridge no one was there. We 
were worried when we heard about this, as we naturally sus- 
pected that the role of our collaborators had become known, 
and that the Mau Mau had embarked upon a campaign of 
ridicule. But in the weeks which followed we found nothing 
to confirm our fears, for the same team had many excellent 
successes. The riddle was not solved until months later when 
we captured the entire gang of a Mau Mau general named 
Kimbo Mutuku, who said that he and his men had been re- 
sponsible. They had thought that our men were part of Ki- 
mathi's gang, and as Kimbo hated Kimathi for having thrown 
him out of the higher councils of the Mau Mau years before, 
and for having sent him into exile for gaining too much popu- 
larity, he had tried to get one back on Kimathi. 

Gethieya and I shared the general depression. Once we had 
to spend two days and two nights without food, blankets, or 
shelter at the highest point of the Aberdares, where the altitude 
is just short of thirteen thousand feet. Our clothes were soak- 
ing wet, we could not light a fire because there was no firewood, 
and it rained without stopping. Our spirits were so low that we 
found we could not even talk to one another. 

Our tempers were not improved when, after long and tiring 
journeys through the forest, we sometimes found that our ra- 
tions, which had been hidden away at prearranged rendezvous, 
had been completely devoured by hyenas. Their powerful jaws 
and sharp teeth ripped open tins of corned beef and fruit with- 
out difficulty, and we would find that all they had left for us 


were a few scattered and torn pieces of tin. Sugar, tea, aspirin, 
and paper bags were their favourite foods, but on one occasion 
they ate a thick tarpaulin sheet used to cover the rations. One 
particularly hungry hyena chewed up my fountain pen and a 

We weren't always unlucky. After one ration trip we made a 
detour through the forest to the scene of a Harvard aircraft 
crash, as we knew that the terrorists obtained much of their 
trapping wire from crashed aircraft After climbing all over the 
fuselage for several minutes, we returned to Nyeri, where we 
learned that months before a military unit had booby-trapped 
the wreckage with twelve two-inch mortar bombs and eight 
hand grenades. 

And sometimes we laughed. Once Mac nearly lost his trou- 
sers to an inquisitive baboon who picked them up, studied them 
for a few minutes, and then threw them down in disgust Then 
Mac discovered a chameleon while we were camping on the 
Moorlands, and proudly walked back among the bivouacs of 
the terrorists to show them his find. He did not realise that 
there is no reptile which the Kikuyu fear as much as a cha- 
meleon, which they think is made by the devil. When the terror- 
ists saw it on his arm they rushed into the forest, and we had 
to spend many hours persuading them to return to the camp. 
Sometimes we were confronted with certain rather boisterous 
terrorists who considered themselves a little too clever. We put 
them in the back of a Land Rover and placed a small dried 
turtle I had bought years before in Las Palmas on the floor- 
boards beside them. Nothing could have deflated them better! 
They were so terrified of the turtle, the Kkes of which they had 
never seen or heard of before, that they struggled desperately 
to squeeze through the hatch behind the driver's seat, while 
everyone who was in the know roared with laughter outside. 
When they realised that they had made fools of themselves 
they became far more placid. 

While walking one day towards a place on the Moorlands 
riot far from the old Fort Jerusalem track, where I was to hide 


some rations for a team, I came over the crest of a small hill to 
find several eland staring intently in the direction of a patch of 
scrub on the far side of a ravine. Realising that they had been 
alerted by some unfriendly visitor, I stopped to study the scrub 
carefully -with binoculars for some minutes, but, as I couldn't 
see anyone, I guessed that they had probably been frightened 
by a leopard. 

Having buried the rations in a thicket and carefully erased 
my tracks, I set off back to my Land Rover, which I had left 
two miles away. I had gone about a mile through the forest 
fringing the Moorlands when, much to my surprise, I came 
upon a party of native forestry workers who had been sent up 
to repair a broken log bridge on the Fort Jerusalem track. They 
were quite unaware that an operation was in progress, and 
were relieved to hear that I would take them down the moun- 
tain in my Land Rover. 

Three days later Gethieya and I were back at the food point 
for the rendezvous. The team of seven were there waiting for 
us with four additional terrorists whom they had captured, but 
their tempers were strained, for they had come to the food 
point to collect their rations on the day I had brought them, 
but they had found nothing there. They had been without any- 
thing to eat for six days. Remembering the forestry workers, 
I immediately suspected that some of them had gone back up 
the mountain and stolen the food, whereupon Gethieya and I 
located and questioned every one of them. They denied every- 
thing. A week later the riddle was solved seventy miles away 
on the edge of the Fort Hall reserve, where Ian Pritchard was 
operating, his pseudo-gangs caught a small group of terrorists 
led by a notorious gangster named Noru Makinya. Noru and 
his party had feasted for a week on our rations. As a rule Mau 
Mau regarded any place visited by security forces as highly 
dangerous, so I journeyed to Fort Hall to hear what Noru had to 
say about it. It turned out that he had been in the patch of 
scrub when I had come over the crest of the hfll, and it was 
he, in fact, who had attracted the elands* attention. He had 


watched me closely as I hid the rations. When I had gone, he 
crept over with his men to see what I had buried. He pelted 
the spot with stones for some minutes to make sure it was not a 
booby-trap; then he had dug up everything and gone away. 

It was not until the fourth of June that we made contact with 
Kimathfs gang again, and then we did so only because some of 
his men made the grave mistake of going into the farming coun- 
try after a rain storm to steal potatoes, which made conceal- 
ment of their tracks on the return journey impossible. 

We had always been on the alert for reports of produce steal- 
ing along the eastern side of the Aberdares bordering on the 
Kimathi area, so that when one morning a wireless message 
was passed to us in the forest giving the location of the theft 
we were quickly off the mark. 

During the night a gang had crept down to a farm near the 
Nyeri Polo Ground and dug up a large quantity of potatoes. 
In the potato field the terrorists had been both wise and care- 
less. After digging down and removing the potatoes from the 
plants, they had carefully replaced the earth in the hope that 
no one would notice until the plants began to wither some days 
later. But in the darkness they had not realised that the earth 
they replaced beneath the plants was the earth they had dug 
up with the potatoes, which was much drier than tie earth on 
the surface. Their mistake was fatal, for early the following 
morning when the native gardeners went to the fields to work 
they immediately noticed the different coloured patches of 
earth and began digging to find out what had happened. 

The footprints of the gang were plainly visible in the neat 
rows of potatoes, and, within a few minutes of their arrival, 


outs and where they had regrouped before setting off with their 
spoils for the forest Instead of making straight for the edge of 
the forest two miles away, the culprits had first gone in the op- 
posite direction towards a large labour cainp which they circled 
before zigzagging back. They had set a false trail so that the 
blame would fall on native labour. But our terrorists had done 


the same thing countless times before, and no time was lost 
in picking up their tracks on the forest edge. 

Inside the jungle the tracks were more difficult to follow, as 
the drippings from the trees had smudged the marks, but de- 
spite this the team were close on their quarry by late evening. 
As darkness fell they fanned out and combed through the 
undergrowth in a long line. They were now nearly ten miles 
from the point where the gang had entered the forest. 

They had almost decided that it would be best to call off 
the hunt until daylight again when a strong whiff of smoke 
drifted over towards them. They all smelt it. Without a word 
they crawled upwind on their stomachs. In a few moments they 
could see the faint glimmer of a light from a shielded fire 
against the leaves of the trees. They crept on until they could 
hear voices. Then they stopped and waited in silence while two 
men went forward to reconnoitre, easing their bare feet forward 
inch by inch, probing with their toes in case there was a dry 
branch on their path which would crack. When the shrill call 
of forest hyrax pierced the silence of the night they bounded 
forward, for nothing could be heard above this. 

The two scouts came right up to the edge of the hideout and 
peered through the bushes at five terrorists sitting round the 
fire. A large cooking pot supported by three sticks was boiling 
away, and they could hear the water bubbling as the potatoes 
cooked. They recognised every member of the gang which was 
fed by Wambararia, Kimathf s brother. He was one, they 
thought, who must not get away. Our men could hear every 
word that was spoken. The gangsters were discussing the night' s 
raid, saying that they would never go near the labour camp 
again because many dogs had barked. One of them was very 
annoyed with the water carrier because of the dirty water he 
had fetched from the river, but the others joined in and said 
that the whole river had been fouled by elephants drinking 
higher up, and that there was no cleaner water anywhere in 
the area. 

The scouts studied the scene for several minutes, hoping to 


see where the gang's guns were stacked, but without success. 
Probably, they thought, Kimathi had kept them all Then, as 
silently as they had come, they retraced their steps. 

As the pot was being lifted from the fire, the gang was rushed 
from two sides. The terrorist who was holding the pot dropped 
it, spilling the boiling water and hot potatoes over one of his 
equally startled companions. Another reeled back shouting, "It 
is us, Kimathi, it is only us." He was soon disillusioned. Wam- 
bararia was cool and collected. He quickly grabbed a satchel 
of documents lying on the ground beside him and threw it into 
the fire. He was hit on the head with the butt of a revolver 
when he tried to stop one of our men from snatching it back 
from the flames. 

When all five of Kimathfs men had been handcuffed to- 
gether, the fire was stoked up and, in the flickering light, the 
documents were studied by the only man in our team who 
could read. While this was happening Kfmathfs men saw their 
valuable potatoes being eaten with relish by their captors who 
did not save them one. Then the fire was beaten out, and the 
party set off to a place called "Muti uri Cieni," or "the Tree 
of the Vlei/* where I was to rendezvous with them next morn- 

It was nearly eight o'clock before I arrived at Muti uri Cient 
As I came in sight of the tree I saw the team jumping up and 
down and chatting excitedly about something which was ob- 
viously amusing them a great deaL But Wambararia and his 
companions, who were still handcuffed together, were sullen 
and unamused. "Kai ni atia [ What is it] ?* I asked. 

"What we have seen today is the best," replied one of our 
team, and told me what had happened After the prisoners had 
been handcuffed together, the party had travelled several miles 
through the dark forest towards Muti uri Cieni before they had 
come upon a good place to sleep. Before daybreak they were cm 
the move again, and were just getting to the tree where we 
now stood when a rhino had charged, scattering everyone. Two 
of our men had seen the manacled quintet making good speed 


across the clearing towards a spinney of trees. To stop any 
escape attempt, they had chased after Kimatihf s men without 
worrying unduly about the rhino, which was still charging to 
and fro round the tree. 

As the terrorists were about to reach the spinney the rhino 
apparently caught their scent and came racing over after them, 
but veered off into the forest before reaching them. The de- 
parture of the rhino was seen by all our men, but not by the 
terrorists. There was panic in the spinney. As the fastest of the 
five, Wambararia dashed into the lead and dragged the others 
along behind him. But when he reached the nearest tree and 
started to climb it, he was pulled down by one of his com- 
panions, who, standing firmly on his back, tried to get up the 
tree himself, but he too was pulled down. Sure that nobody was 
going to climb that tree, the group picked themselves off the 
ground and headed for another, but they did not all aim at the 
same one. All pulled in different directions, swearing and curs- 
ing at one another. When pulling seemed futile, Wambararia 
tried pushing, but this too got him nowhere. In the end the 
gang collapsed in a tangle. AH the time our team was rolling 
over and over in the grass at what they claim was the funniest 
sight they have ever seen. 

Wambararia looked like Kimathi, although he was far shorter 
and stouter than his brother. He had scars on his cheeks and 
lips where his brother had burnt him the night after the Itha 
River battle. Once back in camp he became the centre of at- 
traction, and all our terrorists huddled inquisitively round him. 
He seemed suspiciously voluble and soon announced his readi- 
ness to lead us back to the place where, he claimed, his brother 
was hiding. Within an hour we were on the move again with 
Wambararia at the head of a specially selected force. But per- 
haps he was telling the truth, for, after all, if anyone would 
know Kimathf s secrets, it would surely be his brother, and 
Wambararia's scars showed that he had reason enough for re- 
venge. We decided to attack as soon as the hideout was pointed 
out to us. 


We might have guessed what the outcome would be. Instead 
of leading us directly to his brother, Wambararia marched us 
straight across the front of the hideout to expose us, then, as if 
he were still not sure that the gang had gone, round in a circle 
and back to it through an area of extremely thick, dry bamboo, 
where a noiseless approach was impossible. When we reached 
the deserted hideout and realised what had happened, he said 
he hoped we would kill him. At least he was a faithful and 
loyal brotherl 

Everything in the hideout, such as cooking pots, meat, trap- 
ping wires, and other valuables, had been left behind, which 
showed how quickly the gang had left Two days later Wam- 
bararia told us how he had deliberately exposed us. We also 
discovered from him that Kinanda and Ngomari, the two 
trappers we had captured, were not the lone teirorists from 
Nyoka's rributu they had claimed to be. They had belonged to 
Kimathf s personal mbtrtu, and had known exactly where Ki- 
inathi was at the time of their capture. They had, in fact^ just 
come from him, and would have gone straight back to hfm if 
they had not been caught The story they told us about the 
mururua letter box had been invented on the spur of the mo- 

We learnt all this because Wambararia would not believe 
that he had been tracked to the spot where we caught him. 
Instead, he was convinced that either Kinanda or Ngomari, or 
both, had put us on to hfrn. Not long before both of them had 
been with him in a hideout nearby, and had heard him speak 
well of the area and say he would go back to it Sure that they 
had done him down, he decided to expose them as much as he 
could and he told us about their ruse. This set off a chain re- 
action. Infuriated by Wambararia's revelations and accusation, 
both Ngomari and Kinanda then told us all they knew about 
Kimathi and his brother, and they told us much. This betrayal 
and counter-betrayal broke all resistance among the rest of Ki- 
mathf s men in our hands, but ill-feeling ran so high that we 


had to hand Wambararia over to the regular police to avoid 
trouble in camp. 

Now Kimathi was really on the run. Throughout the emer- 
gency he had never experienced such a series of narrow shaves. 
It was all too much for his nerves. He called on Ngai more than 
he had ever done before. He became so suspicious and high- 
strung that the sight of an old rusted bully-beef tin thrown away 
months before was enough to send him skittering sideways like 
a shying horse. If an aeroplane flew overhead, he would insist 
that he had been seen and move his camp without delay. He 
would not touch a government surrender pamphlet for fear that 
it was poisoned or had some curse on it, which, in his own 
words "would burn out the eyes"; the print of an army jungle 
boot in the forest would send him dashing off into another area, 
and the print of a bare foot found in a place which he knew 
none of his men had visited or passed through was enough to 
send him off on a two- or three-day journey. 

Among Wambararia's documents was a letter Kimathi had 
written to hi some days before, describing a dream in which 
Ngai had spoken to him: 

As I was sleeping I felt someone hold my hand. I woke 
up and heard God say to me, "My son, come with me/* 
I stood up, and Ngai took me by my right hand and we 
walked through a most beautiful forest where there were 
many red and yellow flowers and big birds with green 
wings. There were also many big rocks out of which clean 
springs were flowing. And Ngai took me to a mugumo 
[wild fig] tree which was bigger and higher than all the 
other wild fig trees in the forest, a tree that was like a 
father of all trees. And I rested my hand upon it. When 
I did that, Ngai spoke to me again and said, "This is my 
house in this forest, and here I will guard you." Then the 
tree came up out of the ground and went up into the 
clouds and I did not see it again. Then it rained very 
hard and I woke up a second time, but I could not re- 


member where I had seen the tree. But from this I know 
that the house of Ngai is in this forest and it must be found 
and from now onwards no person shall pass a mugumo 
tree without praying, otherwise he will anger Ngai and be 

As a result of this dream Kimathi began a series of pilgrim- 
ages to certain parts of the eastern Aberdares where large wild 
fig trees were growing. 



Kuri arume na maiuria ndua. 

Some are males and some can only fill the gourds. 

As sheep come to the fold, some are good and some are bad. 

WHILE A SELECT GROUP of the very best of our converted ter- 
rorists was searching for Kimathi in the Tree Tops Salient and 
the Mwathe, the rest of the force was not idle. They too had 
been formed into gangs and went back into the forest to work 
for us. By the end of June we had over ninety hardcore Mau 
Mau operating in the Aberdares on our side, and success bred 
success. A hostile gang fighting against us yesterday became a 
tamed gang fighting for us today. We were not exactly con- 
verting these desperate men, but we were certainly recruiting 

No Mau Mau could merge with the Kimathi gang, but our 
technique of penetrating and living in with other Mau Mau 
gangs proved immensely successful. Time after time our collab- 
orators contacted gangs and merged with them without diffi- 
culty. Every meeting was celebrated in great fashion with 
much praying and smearing of smelly ftrrimal fat on everyone's 
foreheads to wash away any impure thoughts that might have 


entered their minds during the time they had been apart from 
one another. Everyone would then retire to some secluded part 
of the jungle where all the available food was eaten. 

When the gang fell asleep their guests would He down with 
them and pretend to sleep also. Sometimes friend and foe 
would lie beneath the same skin cover, their bodies close to- 
gether for warmth. But as the night wore on, as their hosts 
snored and sighed and turned, our men would be waiting for 
the signal to strike. Sometimes someone in the gang would be 
restless, and the time for action had to be postponed. So as to 
warn the leader not to rise, warning coughs would echo round 
the hideout, and all would be silent for another hour or so. 
But when the moment firmly came, the job would be done with 
the utmost efficiency. The Mau Mau would wake to find that 
they were being tied by the feet or covered by armed men 
who were no longer friendly. Every week an average of twenty- 
two terrorists were accounted for in the forests by our teams 
using this technique. 

Normally it was only when a gang had posted armed sentries 
round its hideout that anyone was killed, and these were in- 
variably the sentries themselves. This suited us well, for in or- 
der to make progress we had to have information, and only 
live terrorists could supply this. When a team was preparing 
to capture their sleeping hosts, some of them would sneak away 
to deal with the sentries. Sometimes they found them leaning 
against trees blissfully unaware of their danger. These we were 
able to overpower without noise or resistance; sometimes we 
found them 'alert They would challenge our men, and we 
would have to have a good excuse for not being asleep. TTie 
excuse our men usually gave was that they were going to relieve 
themselves. Normally our men walked quite boldly up to the 
sentries, whose positions had been carefully noted beforehand, 
and as they went they would stretch their arms back and yawn 
as though they had just risen from a deep sleep. They woold 
whisper to the sentries about the coldness of the night, about 
the noise of an ?rrud 3 or about a pain in their stomachs. They 


would watch their man until he relaxed, then, with the speed 
of a wild cat, they would drop him and hold him down. Any 
resistance meant death. Nothing but immediate submission was 
good enough, for they knew their adversaries, they knew it was 
a matter of life or death. Mau Mau were not people to take 
chances with! It was like holding down a leopard give it a 
chance to free its foot and you could be clawed to death. But 
not once throughout these operations did anyone escape. 

Sometimes the terrorists, asleep in their hideouts, were re- 
markably slow in coming to their senses. It always amazed me 
how tense and sensitive a Mau Mau gang would be when no 
sentries were guarding them, and yet how utterly oblivious to 
danger they would become when sentries were posted. One 
night when a terrorist named Kabangi was captured, all the 
sentries round about, and all his companions in the hideout, 
had been securely tied up before he awoke. He had been 
asleep on the ground with six others, all closely packed together 
and covered with a single dirty piece of hessian, when our team 
struck. Four men on his left and two on his right had been 
pulled to their feet and handcuffed before he stirred. But even 
then he did not wake up. When one of our men grabbed his 
hair and shook his head, he turned over on to his side and 
mumbled, *What are you doing? Do you think I am a woman?" 
With that he went to sleep again. 

Another named Kaburei, who was captured with three oth- 
ers, complained bitterly to his captors when they tried to shake 
him awake that he was far too tired to visit the traps. After his 
ankles had been tied together with rope and he had been pulled 
to his feet, his first exclamation was, 1 seem to feel that I am 
dreaming of being tied upl" 

But these were certainly exceptions. In most cases our teams 
had to act quickly and decisively, sometimes before they were 
ready. The Mau Mau practice of lying packed together like 
fcands on a corn cob sometimes made it very difficult for a. 
team leader to extricate himself without waking the gang. 
There were cases where sentries screamed out and woke every- 


one. There were even cases where the gang never went to sleep 
at all. 

For months the sole preoccupation of all these terrorists had 
been mere survival. They lived like animals. They survived 
because of their animal skills, and when caught they reacted 
like trapped animals. 

I often saw terrorists a few moments after their capture. Some 
would stand there wide-eyed, completely speechless, and shiv- 
ering violently from shock and cold. They would think of the 
moment of death, and that moment seemed very near. Others 
would be past the stage of thinking at all. Mad with shock, 
they would shout and struggle or froth at the mouth and bite 
at the earth. 

Under these circumstances it was not easy to remember that 
they were fanatics who had enjoyed killing children and slitting 
open the stomachs of pregnant women. They were savage, vi- 
cious, unpredictable as a rabid dog, but because they were now 
cornered, muzzled, powerless, and terrified, one felt like giving 
them a reassuring pat 

Those who were suspected of committing specific atrocities 
or major crimes were handed over to the authorities with the 
least possible deky to stand trial; those against whom no defi- 
nite charge could be made, but who were, nevertheless, particu- 
larly bad characters, were sent off to detention- Some, we felt, 
would respond to civilisation fairly quickly, others might take 
longer, others would probably never respond. They would re- 
main a menace to society as long as they lived. 

But there were some who were not directly linked to serious 
acts of terrorism. There were terrorists who, though still hard- 
core Mau Mau, possessed information which would be of great 
value to us, and who seemed prepared to give it to us. We 
kept these and recruited them into our force. I talked to them, 
Gati talked to them, other members of our teams talked to them, 
and soon they were ready to go back into the jungle to hunt 
for other terrorists. And so the snowball rolled. 

The selection of bad from worse, useful from useless, co-op- 


erative from stubborn, was always done with care, and re- 
quired a sound knowledge of the psychology of the Mau Mau 
on the one hand, and of the Kikuyu people on the other. Above 
all else, those selected had to be the types who would respond 
to our efforts to win their unstinted allegiance. We were trying 
to persuade them to change their regiment, not their souls. To 
them I was probably a rival and more powerful gang leader. 
I did not represent good as opposed to evil, but I did represent 
hope for them and their tribe. It was a tricky business. You 
could never be really sure that the man you had chosen to go 
back into the forest with you would not cut your throat when 
your back was turned. All you could guard against was going 
back into the forest with someone who would definitely cut 
your throat at the first opportunity. Fortunately our judgment 
proved to be reliable, for of the hundreds of Mau Mau whom 
we captured and used again in the forest there was not a single 
case of desertion or loss of firearms. 

The Mau Mau in the forests never had the remotest idea 
what was going on. But it was not very long before the stage 
was reached when more than half the Mau Mau gangs on the 
Aberdares were actively working for us against their own lead- 
ers and against their own organisation. Sometimes a considera- 
ble number of our converted gangs happened to be out on 
operations at the same time and came into contact with one 
another. Their surprise was understandable. "Since when have 
you been doing this job?" "How did you get here?" they would 
ask each other. Naturally, as more and more changed sides from 
the forest to our force, the task of recruitment and indoctrina- 
tion became easier. Force of numbers became the key to their 
conversion. It was a far cry from the day when Gati and Hungu 
first met us on the Fort Jerusalem track. But Gati was still our 
principal aide. He was the RS.M. of this force, as well as an 
operational leader. He was responsible for discipline and meted 
out the punishments such as cooking, fatigues, and load-carry- 

The task of keeping every man in our force recognisably ac- 


tive, that is to say, acceptable to the remnant hostile gangs as 
comrades-in-arms, was extraordinarily difficult, and as much 
work and time had to be devoted to this extremely important 
aspect of our technique as was devoted to the actual hunting of 
Mau Mau. We had to get all our teams seen in the forest from 
time to time; we had to get their members to write letters and 
keep up the chain of correspondence in the jungle; we had to 
keep their food stores going. You could not remove half the 
Mau Mau from the forest and expect the subsequent absence 
of hideouts, letters, traps, and the many other signs of Mau 
Mau activity to pass unnoticed by the other half. Often we were 
able to arrange meetings in the forest where our teams would 
confer with hostile Mau Mau. Having proved their loyalty to 
the cause, and extracted all the information they possibly could 
without giving the game away, our men would withdraw with 
their tongues in their cheeks and the way would be paved for 
more operations. Only Kimathi and his bodyguard still re- 
mained beyond our reach. They were a completely different 
problem. They were too cunning, too careful, too suspicious, 
and too isolated to fall to the ruses which brought the others 
tumbling down. 

As a result of all this, our knowledge of the forest and of 
those in it increased steadily, until we found we were able to 
predict gang movements with a surprisingly high degree of ac- 
curacyexcept for Kimathi. Every terrorist who remained at 
large was known personally to most of the men in our teams. 
It would be quite wrong to say that this admirable denouement 
was the result of our efficient leadership. Far from it The brains 
behind the whole show were the converted Mau Mau them- 
selves. They were undoing the bolts in the evil Mau Mau ma- 
chine which they themselves had constructed. Hiey knew 
where the nuts were, and they had the tools to do the job. 

While we were confident, therefore, that we had the forests 
well in hand, and were rapidly getting rid of their occupants, 
the elements of Mau Mau still active outside the forest in tte 
native reserves and the farming lands were being whittled 


down by the Kenya police, the Field Intelligence officers and 
their pseudo-gangs, the Tribal Police Reserve, and the Kikuyu, 
Embu, and Meru guard. These forces gained such a firm grip 
on their areas that if a terrorist were to flee from the forest, 
he had little hope of survival It was a case of jumping from 
the frying pan into the fire. It was not only in the forests that 
new techniques had been developed. The reserve or settled- 
area terrorists, the Mau Mau oddments who lived in holes be- 
neath the ground like rabbits, and who came out only in the 
dead of night to steal food, were far more difficult to find than 
you might think, and it took much skill to root them out They 
did not live in holes you could see. Their underground hideouts, 
or ddkTd, were elaborately built, and you could sit on top of 
them, or even build a house on top of them, without knowing 
they were there. In most cases the only telltale sign of a Mau 
Mau ddkki was a hole in the ground about the size of a penny, 
through which they sucked air. They had a method of kuhitha 
muromo, or concealing the entrance from inside which was 
almost as perfect as the forest Mau Mau's method of kuhitha 
maJdnya, concealing the tracks. Finding them in the darkness 
of night while they were out foraging was next to impossible; 
finding them in their holes by day was hardly any easier. Yet 
with the combined effort of the security forces I have men- 
tioned, backed by the district administration, a remarkable 
method of ferreting out these dakkis and tracing their occu- 
pants was discovered. It is a story which emphasises, amongst 
other things, the great part which the Kikuyu people them- 
selves played in the latter part of the emergency to rid their 
home areas of Mau Mau. In the same way as they had started 
the evil, they were now putting an end to it. Outside the forest 
the Kifcuyu loyalists were the people of whom the Mau Mau 
were the most terrified; inside it was again the Kikuyu who 
were finally cutting out the cancer. 

Needless to say, this was a time when the eyebrows of all 
connected with Operational Intelligence were kept perpetually 
raised by a flow of conflicting rumours and reports. The great 


tribal conspiracy of silence based on the Mau Mau oath had 
been broken by the imminent defeat of the terrorists. Hun- 
dreds of Kikuyu now tried to ingratiate themselves with the 
authorities by passing information to government officers in the 
field. A great deal of this information was false. Where it con- 
cerned the movements or activities of terrorists cut off in the 
jungle, few were able to assess its reliability. Almost daily we 
received reports pin-pointing certain gangs in a given area. Al- 
most daily we knew, but could not reveal, that the gang was 
working for us and was anything up to a hundred miles away. 
Yet there was nothing particular to be alarmed about in this 
trend. It was one of the many peculiar manifestations of a pe- 
culiar cause. 

It had always been an odd sort of war, and the case of Thi- 
ongo was by no means untypical Thiongo had been severely 
wounded in the thigh when his gang was ambushed while steal- 
ing food in the reserve. He had dragged himself several miles 
into the forest, and for fourteen days had lain without food 
or water, unable to move from the spot where he had finally 
collapsed. On the fourteenth day, when his strength was almost 
exhausted, he saw a small monkey peering at him from the 
branches of a nearby tree. Then the little creature came down 
in hesitating jerks, until it was only a few feet away. Something 
was attracting it When the monkey came dose to him he tried 
to catch it, but it quickly darted up a tree. Itroughout the 
day, for some reason, the monkey refused to leave the area. 
Instead it kept on sneaking back to the place where Thiongo 
was lying, and eventually he was able to grab it by the tail. 
With his last ounce of energy he strangled it and ate its raw, 
warm flesh. This gave him a new lease on life, for three days 
later he was picked up unconscious but alive by a passing gang, 
with bits of monkey meat and skin still beside him. He was 
taken away up the mountain where he eventually recovered. 
The gangster who found and revived him was GatL Months 
later Gati, who had now joined us, caught Thiongo, who in 


his turn became a team leader. In five months he accounted 
for forty-seven other terrorists. Yes, it was a peculiar war! 

Thiongo and his fellows had learnt what was harmful and 
what was not, what would kill and what would nourish. They 
had been forced to adopt a way of life which even the most 
primitive of pastoral African tribes could not match. The Masai 
bushmen, the Wanderobo hunters, and other primitive African 
tribesmen, who had gained a reputation for their skill in track- 
ing and hunting, were beginners by comparison with the forest 
terrorists still at large in 1956. It was odd that people of this 
calibre should become the main arm of the security forces. It 
was odd that the elimination of the last die-hard remnants of 
Mau Mau should depend, not on the arts of modern warfare, or 
upon the ingenuity and strength of civilised man, but upon an 
abnormal and primitive skill practised by an abnormal and 
primitive people. 



Ruri kuma njora, nttzcokaga tuhu. 

A knife which has been unsheathed does not return into its sheath 
without having done some work. 

BEFORE WE GOT RED of Wambararia he told us something of 
his brother's future plans. Kimathi was certain that all the set- 
backs and alarms he had suffered in tibe previous two months 
were attributable to a curse. This could only be removed by 
making a sacrifice, and he had told his men of his intention to 
do this at the next full moon. He also told them that after the 
ceremony had been held, a big feast was to take place, and 
that everyone should save meat and honey for it 

We had only known this for four days when we received a 
report that a number of valuable cattle had been stolen by a 
large Mau Mau gang from a cattle pen on a farm near Mweiga. 
Naturally we thought that Kimathi was responsible, and that 
the raid had been carried out in order to get plenty of meat 
for the feast. The fact that Mweiga touched die part of the 
forest in which Kfmathf was living made us feel sure that we 
were right. 

The raid had taken place during the night and had been 
discovered by a Mkamba herds-boy, who, on going to the pen 


to let out the cattle, had found some of the animals missing, 
others straying, and the door broken down. The police found, 
from the hoof-prints, that the stolen animals had been driven 
away at a cracking pace towards the northern end of the Ki- 
mathi area. They signalled this information to us, and we 
rushed a well-armed team to the edge of the forest to pick up 
the trail. 

The exact time of the raid was not known, but as Mau Mau 
seldom stole cattle before everyone was asleep, it was almost 
certain that it had occurred after midnight. But the gang could 
not have reached the forest edge before daybreak if the raid 
had taken place after three o'clock, so it must have been be- 
tween midnight and 3 A.M. that the cattle were driven off. 

The speed with which terrorists drive stolen stock through 
dense forest always surprised us, and we learnt that it was never 
safe to estimate this at less than an average of six miles an 
hour. It was now nine o'clock in the morning, and assuming 
that the raiders had not stolen the cattle until three o'clock, 
it was clear that they had a possible start on us of thirty-six 
miles. There was clearly not much point in following the tracks 
from the forest edge. Instead, we took the nearest track up 
the mountain, and dropped our team off about fifteen miles 
inside the forest, so that they could work their way along the 
slope, parallel to the forest edge, until they intercepted the 

Despite our first belief that Kimathi was responsible, we soon 
had our doubts. Thurura and Kinanda, both former members 
of his gang, told us that over a year before Kimathi had put 
a stop to stock-thieving because nothing betrayed a gang's posi- 
tion more easily than the hoof-prints of stolen animals. But who 
else would dare to venture into Kimathf s forbidden territory. 

Our team had not been gone many hours before they came 
to a steep ridge down which the raiders had tried to drive the 
cattle. Here they had obviously had a great deal of trouble 
with the animals, as, from the spoor, it was clear that the cattle 
had refused to bound down the ridge and, instead, had scat- 


tered in two directions, leaving behind a trail of churned up 
earth where their hooves had cut through the blanket of forest 
mulch and raked up the dark brown soil beneath. 

Gati, the leader, had no difficulty at all in following the tracks, 
and made good speed with the team. At pkces along the wind- 
ing trail through the forest, his men found long, broken sticks 
which the terrorists had used to beat the cattle. For a considera- 
ble distance the raiders had driven the animals along well- 
defined game tracks, but then they turned off and plunged 
straight through the thick forest. Every few hundred yards the 
team would pause to listen for the sound of the animals crashing 
through the undergrowth, but they heard nothing and realised 
that they were still a long way behind. 

After a few miles, however, the team came to a really for- 
midable hill. The raiders had driven the beasts straight up the 
steepest parts towards the top of the Aberdares and, in order 
to travel fast, had seized hold of the animals by their tails. 
They had knotted the cows' tails, as you would knot a piece 
of rope. As the knots tightened with the weight of the terrorists 
hanging on behind, the agonised animals had threshed along 
faster and faster, pulling the raiders up behind them. 

Without the benefit of a similar ride up the steep hills, our 
team fell far behind. On and on they plodded, breathless, 
sweating, aching, but determined. But they could not keep it 
up, and as the sun fell behind the jagged edge of the Simbara 
Range, throwing a gigantic evening shadow over the whole east- 
ern side of the mountain, the track faded until the team was 
forced to stop. 

They had not been resting for long when they heard some- 
thing coming up the hill towards them along the same route 
they and the raiders had already taken. As the sound came 
nearer they could hear that it was a man panting from the 
steep climb, and Gati quickly hid his men on both sides of 
the track to wait for this newcomer. Then three of Kimathfs 
men appeared, climbing breathlessly up the hill towards them. 
On and on they came until they were right in the middle of 


the ambushers. Then the team pounced, threw them to the 
ground, tied them up, and began to question them about the 
cattle raiders. 

The story the prisoners gave was an odd one. They said that 
they had been with Kimathi a few hours before when they had 
heard the cattle raiders passing through the forest. They de- 
scribed how Kimathi made everyone stand in silence for some 
minutes while he climbed a tree where he listened to the ani- 
mals lowing and to the thuds of the sticks as the raiders beat 
them along. Then he had climbed down and told his men that 
he thought our troops were driving the ani'mak along in the 
hope that the Mau Mau, in their hunger for good red meat, 
would follow them up to collect any leftovers and walk into 
a trap. But to make sure he had detailed three of his men to 
reconnoitre while he vanished in the opposite direction. Al- 
though this story turned out to be right, it did not ring true 
at the time. Our men could not understand why, if Kimathi 
had been close enough to hear the cattle lowing, his scouts 
should now be so far behind the raiders. Knowing how expert 
Kimathfs men were in setting false trails, they were inclined 
to believe that the thief was Kimathi himself, and that the three 
prisoners had only lagged behind because there had not been 
enough tails to pull every member of the gang up the steep 
hills. Some of our men took the prisoners a short distance away 
to spend the night under guard, while the rest of the team lay 
down to rest and plan the pursuit which would begin when the 
first calls of the partridges were heard in the morning. 

As our men sat resting in the last moments of daylight, they 
talked quietly about the country. Far down, probably forty 
miles as the crow flies, they could see the flickering lights of 
the little railway station of Naromora, then further south they 
could barely make out the cluster of buildings of the police 
training school at Kiganjo. There, they thought, was a world so 
different in every way, a world where people wore clean 
clothes, where there were cars and lorries, and bugle calls, and 
where there were such things as windows, roads, corrugated 


iron roofs, and even bicycles. All these things frightened them, 
for the thought of civilisation now seemed foreign and danger- 
ous and made them shudder. They felt they could not speak 
about the gadgets and complications of the world outside with- 
out feeling chilled and worried. But nearer to hand, inside the 
forest, there were things they understood well, things which 
comforted them. Just behind them was Mutanga Riua Ml, 
where, according to legend, an old Kikuyu had once taken off 
his githii, or skin coat, and hung it over the sun; that was why 
the Aberdares was always a cold and misty place. Then, on 
their left, was the mtiirigo wa Mwathe or Mwathe ridge, along 
which the Mau Mau had passed in the thousands during 1953 
and 1954 on their way to Deighton Downs, Ndaragwa, and Ol 
Kalou; still further to the left and slightly lower down was the 
part of the forest they called "Gitara-ini," named after the gLtara 
in which Kimathi used to perch to shoot elephant. They remem- 
bered the .450 elephant gun he used to have, and wondered 
what had become of it, and they remarked on how clever he 
was in being able to kill an elephant with one shotl They also 
remembered how the terrorists used to rush up to the dead 
elephant as soon as one fell to hack off the meat before the 
troops could hear the shot and come up, and how Kimathi 
used to send large gangs through the forest to kill porcupine 
because they ate the ivory taken from his elephants, precious 
ivory which he boasted he could exchange for aeroplanes! All 
these things they could talk about freely, for they were a part 
of their lives. 

They were too high up the mountain to hear the familiar 
noises of the jungle. It was too cold for the hyrax, for the 
ngaiyaga, or bush baby, and even for the hyenas. As these were 
the noisiest of the jungle creatures at night, there was an eerie 
quietness about the place. 

Suddenly the quiet was broken by the lowing of cattle. It 
was the sound of an animal in agony the long, drawn out, gut- 
tural noise that is made when a sharp knife is slicing through 
a cow's neck, a fami^r noise as this was the way the Kikuyu 


slaughtered their animals. The sound was clear and loud, and 
came from the far side of the ridge. 

Instinctively every man rose. Those with guns pulled their 
magazine pouches outside their skin jackets because in the 
darkness there was no purpose in concealing them; those with 
simis lifted the straps of their sheaths over their heads to pre- 
vent them from catching on dry branches when they moved 
through the forest In a long line they went down the valley 
and up the ridge on the far side, halting every few minutes 
when the cattle lowed, to check their course. Only three men 
were left behind to guard the prisoners. All the rest were on 
the move. Less than an hour had passed before they saw a large 
fire burning in the centre of a patch of bamboo, low down in 
a valley where the land was shaped like a saucer. Only from 
the high surrounding ground was this fire visible. They stopped 
and watched for some minutes, and could see much darting to 
and fro in front of the flames. Down there the cattle were still 
lowing intermittently, and the noise was echoing against the 

Quietly they moved down, first threading a course through 
a belt of black forest, and then through bamboo, where it was 
too thick for a sentry to see any distance. As no sentry would 
stand where he could not see, they knew that their route of 
approach was secure. 

The last two hundred yards was covered by very thick bam- 
boo, through which they had to crawl on their hands and knees, 
but here, as the bamboo was young and soft, they were able 
to push ahead without making a noise. The glow of the fire 
became brighter and brighter as they crept nearer, and at last 
they could see everything clearly from the fringe of the bam- 
boo. The spectacle made even our hardened terrorists shudder. 

Before diem was an oval-shaped clearing covered with a 
low grass. In the middle of tins arena a large fire was burning 
furiously, throwing up a spray of bright red sparks. Three or 
four terrorists were standing round it with branches in their 
hands beating out the flames whenever they began to spread 


over the surrounding carpet of grass. All round this area were 
groups of terrorists, some skinning dead cattle, some keeping 
live beasts at bay, others slaughtering the Animals, The scene 
was a whirl of moving figures. 

One of the terrorists would hold a cow by the tail while the 
others hacked at its legs with their simis until all four legs were 
cut right off or were hanging by no more than a shred of skin. 
There the cow would be left, struggling hopelessly, unable to 
move except by rolling from side to side, and the group would 
pass on to another animal and start all over again. While thig 
was happening a different group was making its rounds. They 
would grasp tike cows* heads firmly, then twist them violently 
and lay them on the ground. While some held it down, others 
would cut the jugular vein and collect the warm blood as it 
squirted out When all the blood had been drained off, they 
would move on to another animal, leaving the cow in its death 
throes. Finally another group would come up to skin the car- 
cass and carve up the meat 

This bloodbath continued deep into the night As each car- 
cass was carved up the meat was carried out of the arena a 
few hundred yards into the bamboo forest, where, towards mid- 
night, three small fires were lit, and some of the raiders began 
roasting the choicer pieces of beef. The smell of roasting meat 
drifted over to our men, who knew that all would not be quiet 
until the terrorists had fed. This would take some time, as each 
man would eat five or six pounds of meat, if not more, and 
drink the blood drained from the animals* throats. 

By this time our team had identified the gang, and realised 
that Kimathi and his men were not involved. It was the gang of 
a notorious terrorist named Ndungu Gicheru, whose cattle rus- 
tling exploits throughout the emergency had cost the farmers of 
the Central Province many thousands of pounds. Our men knew 
that they could merge with Ndungu's gang in normal times 
without any difficulty, but these were not normal times. If they 
were suddenly to walk out of the bamboo where they were 
lying, they would either send the forty raiders running into lie 


forest, or start a battle which might be costly. They decided 
to wait until the gang had left the area and huddled round 
the three fires. Then, with luck, they should be able to creep 
up and attack at close range. 

When all the cattle were dead and their moans had ceased, 
the voices of the raiders were clearer. Someone, probably 
Ndungu, was telling those sitting round the fires that nobody 
should roast meat as it was important to get away from the 
area as soon as possible, in case the large fire in the arena had 
been seen from the hilltops. This advice was rejected by the 
majority, who were only interested in the meat. After all, they 
said, no security forces would come at that time of the night, 
and it would be quite safe to sleep there until dawn. 

At exactly 4:15 A.M. by Gatfs watch, when the fires were 
smouldering and the raiders were asleep, our team crawled 
forward towards the three cooking points, which were only a 
few yards apart. As they slid forward they could see the dark 
shapes of the sleeping raiders, who were huddled together on 
the ground by the hot coals. They could see one sentry silhou- 
etted against the sky line, but our men were not worried, for 
in a large gang like this there were bound to be people getting 
up and down throughout the night and this would serve as a 
useful cover for their own movements. 

The silence was broken by the loud clatter of machine-gun 
fire. All three fires were sprayed simultaneously from a range 
of about ten yards. As red-hot cinders flew up and danced 
crazily above the ground, the raiders began to stir. Some got 
up and ran into the forest, some stood up only to fall back and 
roll over on the ground. Some did not move at all. Then the 
firing stopped, and our men heard the moans of the dying lying 
round the fires, then the night was silent once again. 

That night Ndungu Gicheru lost nearly half his gang, and he 
himself, his leg broken by a bullet, could only crawl a few hun- 
dred yards away. There he spent what was left of the night in 
agony. When he was found at dawn, he was sitting with one leg 


outstretched and the other, which was almost severed below 
the knee, tucked lifelessly under him. Ndungu had suffered 
just as the cattle had suffered. The wheels of God grind slowly, 
but they grind exceeding small 



Gutiri muthenya ukeaga ta ungi. 
No day dawns like another. 

THE JULY MISTS now rolled down over the Aberdares, turning 
the beautiful mountain into a gloomy, damp, and depressing 
place where the sun would not be visible for several days at a 
time. The birds didn't sing and the bees didn't buzz. When the 
July mists come, all the sounds of the forest which are stimu- 
lated by warmth cease abruptly, as though the needle had sud- 
denly been lifted from Nature's gramophone. 

In the early days of the emergency a dramatic rise was always 
expected in the number of terrorists surrendering towards the 
end of July, for the cold, dreary mists drilled through their re- 
sistance. But those days had gone. The gangsters who still held 
out had long passed the stage when discomfort could make any 
impression upon them. 

Yet, just as the long rains brought about a change in their 
mode of living, so did the mists. The valleys, the open grass- 
lands, and all places near cold, running streams were aban- 
doned in favour of the thicker parts of the jungle where the 
undergrowth provided a little warmth. There was a tendency to 
leave the higher ground and come further down the mountain; 


and there was always a drift towards the bamboo belt where 
easy-burning firewood could be found. 

As far as we were concerned, there was no better time for 
our operations. We were able to move about the forest far more 
freely without being seen and we could get up far closer to the 
gangs undetected. As soon as the mists arrived, therefore, we 
redoubled our efforts and instead of using two teams against 
Kimathi as we had done in the past, we now turned out in 
force to hunt him down. 

On the second of July, no less than seven strong teams were 
bowled into the Tree Tops Salient They went in from all sides 
from the top of the National Park Track, from the ginafni 
River, from Njoguini, from Kihuyo in the east, from Muti uri 
Cieni in the north, and from the Ruhotie valley in the north- 
west Their whole effort was to be concentrated in the bamboo 

Results followed quickly. On the f ourth of July, a particularly 
misty day, five members of Kimathf s gang were captured and 
a further two were killed when one of our teams encountered 
the gang west of the Tgnrnfrii River. The groups did not see 
each other until they were a few yards apart By a stroke of 
luck all Kimathfs firepower had been travelling with him in the 
rear, and our men were able to open fire on a largely unarmed 
vanguard which suffered heavily. The gang had only been lick- 
ing its wounds for twenty-four hours when we were at them 
again. Guided by one of the prisoners taken in the first en- 
counter, we caught two more of Kimathf s men at a game trap 
the f oflowing day and overpowered them without loss to our- 
selves. This was something of a landmark as it was the first 
time that any of Kimathf s gang had guided us on an operation 
without attempting to mislead us. 

Morale among our men soared with these successes. To brush 
with the gang twice in such a short space of time was remarka- 
ble, and to have done so without losing any men was miracu- 
lous. The hunt went on \vfth fresh zest and our luck still held 
good. Eighteen days later, on the twenty-second of July, Juma 


Abdalla, one of Kimathfs sub-leaders, fell into our hands during 
a night raid and soon after that we scored the greatest success 
since the fall of Wambararia: Jeriko and all but two of his 
mbutu were accounted for in a very spirited fight which cost 
us two of our collaborators. 

Kimathi and some of his men had camped within a stone's 
throw of Jeriko, whom we had last seen at the Itha River. To 
all intents and purposes, there were two separate groups living 
near one another. Why Kimathi had chosen to do this we could 
never find out It was quite unlike him to depart from his usual 
defensive tactics of sleeping in the middle of his men, who 
would spread themselves round him over a wide area. Unfortu- 
nately, the tracks which our teams had followed led them to 
the wrong group and they went into the attack not knowing 
that the balance of the gang was close at hand. No sooner had 
they rushed Jeriko's hideout than they were fired on from be- 
hind, and this cross-fire killed two of our men. As before, as 
soon as the battle was joined, Kimathi departed like a scalded 
cat. As always, he somehow managed to escape when he should 
have been caught. But his gang of fifty men was now reduced 
to a total of twenty-one men and Wanjiru, the woman. We were 
half way to our goal. But there was another set of figures which 
interested us even more. Just before the Itha River engagement, 
the gang held, according to Thurura, exactly 2,011 rounds of 
ammunition. Jeriko told us that they were now down to 246 
rounds, and in this last battle they had used forty or fifty rounds. 
The gang was losing its punch. 

No one was more surprised at the way we were whittling 
down the gang than Thurura. A day or so after Jeriko had 
been caught, I turned to him and asked, "Wasn't it you who 
said that capturing Kimathfs men was impossible?" "Nogwo, 
Kinyanjui," he replied, "but I also warned you that Kimathi 
would be the last man in the forest to be caught and you will 
see if I am not right." 

After this last operation we withdrew from the forest for 
some days to interrogate the new batch of prisoners and during 


this period, which carried us out of the mists into the sun again, 
we were able to review all the facts at our disposal and plan 

It was during this period that we suddenly realised we al- 
ready held a vital clue to unravelling Kimaihf s future plans. 
The clue was his dream the dream about his god, Ngai, taking 
him by the hand to the mugumo tree the dream he had written 
about to his brother. With mounting interest we listened as 
Jeriko and his friends told us how Kimathi would walk every 
week to certain parts of the forest where large mugumo trees 
were growing. There he would stand with his arms raised above 
his head, his forehead pressed against the tree, praying aloud 
to Ngai and pleading with his god to return and save him. We 
were told that these pilgrimages were the very breath of Me 
to him. He believed tibat if he did not make these pilgrimages 
Ngai would not only let him die, but would also destroy his 
ngumo ya njamba, or "fame of wamorship." Kimathi now be- 
lieved that prayer would bring him immortality and, even more 
important to him at the moment, an immortal reputation. 

On hearing about this we jumped for joy. Here, at last, we 
had advance information about places in the forest which Ki- 
mathi would visitand visit come fire or come hail How easy 
it would be. No longer, we thought, would we search labori- 
ously through the jungle for his tracks, game snares, hideouts, 
and food stores. Instead, we would watch the mugumo trees 
like hungry vultures and take "h by surprise when he came 
to pray. But Jeriko had not finished and his next words threw 
a less encouraging light on things. He told us that Kimathi 
would never visit one of his trees without first sending his men 
to search the area and make sure that no enemies were about 
Then, even if their report was favourable, he would not ap- 
proach a tree until he had circled it twice. The first time he 
would be anything up to a mile away, the second time closer 
in. During these circuits he would move as quietly as a leopard, 
studying the forest with extreme care and ttorougihness for 
traces of human tracks. If he found any, even if they were days 


old, or even if he found marks which he could not identify, he 
would bound away like a frightened buck. Knowing his un- 
usual instinct and powers of self-preservation, we knew how 
difficult it was going to be for us to ambush these trees. 

Yet there was more to it than that. We were told that there 
were at least forty such mugumo trees in the Kimathi area and 
he was liable to visit any one of them. Sometimes he would go 
to one particular tree three times in succession; then, after his 
third visit, he would stay away while his most trusted lieu- 
tenants would return to see if any security forces or pseudo- 
gangs had passed by. If they had, he would assume that there 
was a traitor in his carnp and, in Jeriko's words, "the case would 
crack a log/* 

Nevertheless, we were making progress. It would certainly 
be easier to watch the trees than work almost blindly in those 
hundreds of square miles of forest. The rains and the mists had 
passed and with them had gone the days when the gangs 
crouched and huddled in their hideouts, which were compara- 
tively easy to find. Now they would have unwound again and 
be roaming the length and breadth of their private domain. 
Kimathi and his men could be anywhere in either the Tree Tops 
Salient or the Mwathe. But, apart from the considerable prob- 
lem of actually getting to the trees, we now had great difficulty 
in persuading our men to go there. They found the thought of 
ambushing Kimathi at his "places of prayer" most disconcert- 
ing. "What would Ngai do," they asked, "if he found his chosen 
altar desecrated?" Though they did not altogether believe Ki- 
mathf s dream, they did not disbelieve it either. After all, they 
knew that he had dreamt before of security forces arriving at 
a certain place at a certain time, and these dreams had proved 
to be correct. If he now dreamt that Ngai would return to one 
of these trees, who were they to dispute the prediction? Per- 
haps some evil spirit did haunt the trees. Perhaps it would 
jump down and kill them as they lay beneath the branches. 

Fear of "Ngaf s altars" became so deep-seated within the next 
few days that at odd intervals during the nights at camp, one 


terrorist after another would sneak away alone to some dark 
corner where, facing Mount Kenya, he would pray to Ngai to 
save him. The drop in morale became so serious that all prayer 
or talk of "evil spirits" had to be forbidden. And with our men 
in this edgy, erratic state, we were quite unable to start on of- 
fensive operations again, AH the curious thoughts disturbing 
their minds had to be neutralised But we had to step lightly, 
for here we were dealing with a potent and deep-rooted part 
of all African life fear of evil spirits. 

While these troubles were upon us, Eunathi was facing an 
identical problem with his own gang. Our men were frightened 
of the mugumo trees and wanted to have nothing to do with 
them; his were frightened of the mugumo trees too. After the 
many setbacks they had suffered, his followers began to wonder 
whether his habit of praying beneath the trees was the cause 
of their misfortunes. Before Kimathi began these pilgrimages, 
they had been so lucky. Had Ngai, they wondered, deserted 
their leader? 

Three or four times Kimathi called his followers round him 
and held all-night sessions where he would read from his Bible 
and warm them with the fire of his oratory. Once again he 
poured out the mixture of parable, proverb, mythology, and 
venom which had once swayed thousands of forest men. Now 
the last handful gazed wide-eyed and bewildered as he spoke. 
All the time he was trying to convince them that their only 
hope of survival lay in prayer beneath the mugumo trees. 

We soon heard about these sessions and sensed that Kimathi 
was beginning to panic. He seemed to have lost all stability 
of mind. Instead of eating the precious honey which his fol- 
lowers found in the forest, he made them mix it with earth and 
animal blood. After this mixture had been put on the ground 
in its container, it would be covered with green leaves and herbs 
while hymns were sung. Then, after some of the contents had 
been sprinkled on the ground round the hideout to act as a 
spiritual "fence 3 * for keeping out evil spirits, he would take the 
rest away to a mugumo tree as an offering to Ngai. All eyes had 


to be averted as it was poured over the roots at the foot of the 
arboreal altar. 

Among the many things his gang had stolen in early raids 
were a Bush wireless set, a porcelain washing basin, an assort- 
ment of silver knives, forks and spoons, and a large bathroom 
mirror. All these things were now condemned as "unclean." 
They were collected and hidden away in a cave where we soon 
found them. Those men who had carried the goods to the cave 
were forbidden to eat or touch food for three days on their 
return and were made to wash their bands in the blood of a 
buck taken from his traps. Sometimes Kimathf s travels took 
lifTTi across the rough forest roads. He invariably insisted that all 
those who crossed the roads should wash their feet in the first 
stream they came to because "after the enemies* vehicles had 
driven over them, they would be poisoned like the fangs of a 
puff adder. 7 * 

Twice he journeyed to Karia-ini, a point high on the Aber- 
dares where in 1953 a large bamboo shelter had been con- 
structed by the Mau Mau for their meetings. At this shelter, 
which they called "Karuri Ngamne Headquarters," he had once 
met all the leaders of his various "armies" in the days when 
Mau Mau was at the height of its power and he was the supreme 

All that was now left of the building was a few ant-eaten 
and weather-worn poles, two or three twisted roof beams, and 
several rows of log benches where the leaders had once sat. 
This had been the home of Mau Mau's highest councils, now 
there was nothing but decay. But Ktmathi rose above his sur- 
roundings. He walked jauntily up the aisle between the rows of 
empty, dilapidated benches, just as he had done long ago. With 
a revolver in his hand, he stood looking down on an imaginary 
audience. Raising his voice, he would call the "meeting" to 
prayer and order everyone to stand up while he delivered his 
sermon. He would remind his listeners that Ngai had made 
Gikuyu and Mumbi, the Adam and Eve of the Kikuyu, and 


placed them at the top of Mount Kenya where, in time, they 
had given birth to nine daughters. From these the nine clans 
of the tribe had sprung. He would say that in the same way 
that Ngai had sent Gikuyu and Mumbi to the snow-capped 
peak, he had only chosen those with the "thickest blood" to 
enter the forest. In this way Ngai had separated the corn from 
the cob so that the worthless members of the tribe could be 
annihilated, so that the traitors in the tribe could be washed 
away by blood falling from their own bodies. Ngai had a very 
large black book in which the names of all those who died in 
the forest would be recorded. They alone would find a new, 
rich, beautiful land in a different world to which Ngi would 
take them. 

While his guards stood round about he would go on speak- 
ing for hours, allowing his imagination and his memories free 
play in his mind. Sometimes, he would raise his arms as though 
he were trying to silence a jubilant, cheering crowd. Now and 
then he would pause and, pointing to an empty bench, he 
would call upon the leader of the **Mburu Ngebo Army" of the 
Rift Valley to speak, for that was where its leader had sat in 
bygone councils. He would call upon other leaders of other 
"armies" to speak. In his imagination, he would listen to reports 
from the leaders of Ituma Demi, Mei Mathathi, Gikuyu Inoro, 
Mburu Ngebo, Ruheni, Kimuri, Kareba, and other defunct Mau 
Mau "armies." As he stood silently with his head bowed, he 
heard the still voices of his men who had died. These lonely 
council meetings would give Kimathf new strength. For days 
after his visits to Karuri Ngamne he would be in better heart, 
giving new inspiration to his followers and showing a more 
tolerant attitude towards his men. 

To him these imaginary meetings were not old memories re- 
vived. They were a reality. He believed he had actually seen 
his ghost audiences. He believed he had heard each of his old- 
time leaders speak out He often brought up the subject later 
with his men and asked them whether they did not agree that 


such and such a dead leader had spoken very well and was a 
fine warrior. But the gang never questioned his sanity. After 
all, if the great Kimathi had heard the dead speak, who were 
they to disbelieve him? Had he not been blessed by his dying 
grandmother and chosen to lead the people? The frets and 
fears of his followers centred on one thing and one thing only 
his visits to mugumo trees. These pilgrimages were something 
completely new, something never seen or done before by the 
Mau Mau, and the Mau Mau were always suspicious of any- 
thing which had no precedent 

When we learnt about these odd events we were sure that 
Kimathi was going mad. Some of our collaborators who knew 
him well said that if we kept up the pressure much longer, he 
would probably kill Wanjiru and then shoot himself. This was 
our greatest worry, for if he just disappeared the myth of his 
omnipotence would survive in the forest. It was imperative that 
we should find him before he chose suicide. 

Just before we began operations again another incident shook 
Kimathi's gang, and we soon heard about it One day towards 
the end of July, Kimathi's only surviving woman, Wanjiru, the 
Mau Mau queen whom all men served, the woman who had 
never collected wood or cooked food in the forest, suddenly 
became the centre of a row which resulted in the death of two 
of Emathfs men. 

With a dirty buckskin coat over her shoulders, Wanjiru had 
left the hideout and walked a short way into the forest to re- 
lieve herself. Kimathi had suddenly become aware of her ab- 
sence and lost his temper because he had not been told of her 
departure. The longer he waited for her to come back, the more 
furious he became. When Wanjiru finally did appear, walking 
back towards the hideout with two of his men, he lost every 
vestige of control. He imagined that the two men had lured 
his woman away to seduce her. Without a single word, he 
walked over towards them and shot both with his revolver. 
Then he grabbed Wanjiru by the wrist, stripped the coat off 


her shoulders, and for almost an hour beat her naked body with 
stinging nettles. Then he ordered his terrified followers to bury 
the dead and move on to a new hideout in case the shooting 
had been heard. 

That night Wanjiru was very ill. She developed a severe 
rash, and her body was badly blistered and bruised. She cried 
repeatedly for water but Kimathi paid no attention to her, nor 
would he allow anyone else to go near her. When he had fallen 
asleep one of his minor leaders, named Wamuthandi, who had 
been upset by Wanjiru's moans, slipped quietly away with four 
friends and went down to the river to fetch water for her to 
drink. They took two rifles with them. Having drawn the water 
and climbed back up the hill, they came in sight of the hide- 
out where, to their horror, they saw that Kimathi was standing 
up and asking where they had gone to. As they stood there 
listening, they heard him tell another terrorist named Wanyee 
to collect ten men and go to arrest them. They heard Kimathi 
say that they were to be brought back with their hands tied 
as he proposed "to grind them like corn in a mill." 

Wamuthandi and his companions knew they would die if 
they were caught, so that night they fled to the Marishimiti 
gorge nearly fifty miles away on the western side of the moun- 
tain, where they stayed until they were captured, Wanyee's ten 
men searched for the deserters for twelve hours, determined 
to kill them if they came across them, but they were unsuc- 
cessful. There is no doubt that Kimathi's men hunted for their 
ex-colleagues with enthusiasm and would have killed them with 
pleasure. Brother hunted brother, father hunted son, and friend 
hunted friend. That was the Mau Mau creed. 

Kimathi's own actions had now caused the death of another 
two and the desertion of another five of his dwindling force, 
leaving him with only fourteen men and Wanjiru. This was in- 
deed a far cry from our first feeble efforts seven months before. 
Within a few days two of the five deserters were captured by 
one of our teams and gave a vivid account of the cause of their 
flight from Kimathi. Their capture was a great help as those of 


our men who were still apprehensive about going to the 
mugumo trees became less frightened when they heard what 
had happened in the forest It seemed that even Ngai was de- 
serting Kimathi. 



Mutego ti ngoro, ni wathi warera. 

It is not the trap that counts, but the art of trapping. 

A good archer is known by his aim, not his arrow. 

BY THE EVENING of the eighth of August, all the large mugumo 
trees in the "Kimathi area" had been plotted on our map. These 
trees are not common in the forest of the Aberdares, and they 
are quite rare in our hunting ground. Jerifco had said that there 
were at least forty, but we only found eighteen and ten of these 
were in spots which Kimathi would certainly not visit because 
the approaches were unsafe. We turned to the remaining eight. 
That same night, eight well-armed teams made their way to 
the trees. The march was a taxing exercise in bushcraft. Our 
teams had to avoid open spaces where an alert sentry could 
see them; they had to avoid the likely resting places of bush- 
buck and duiker, for if Kimathi found the hoof-marks of a run- 
ning antelope he might suspect that his enemies were at hand; 
our men also had to avoid those birds or animals which raise an 
alarm as soon as they see human beings, such as the Sykes 
monkeys, whose loud, warning calls can be heard for miles 
through the forest. Then there is the tiny little brown n dete or 


call bird. Whenever he sees something move he flies over and 
perches on a nearby bush where he jumps frantically from 
branch to branch and makes as much noise as he can to tell 
the forest of his discovery. He is a most difficult creature to get 
rid of. Fortunately he^chatters whenever he sees anything move 
so he is a far less reliable "alarm belT than the less excitable 
Sykes monkey, and it can often be a pure waste of time to 
check up on his warnings. But nothing was ever too tiring or 
troublesome for the timid Kimathi. Whenever he heard the 
ndete he would study the situation from afar for some time in 
the hope of identifying the cause of the bird's alarm, then, if 
he could not see anything, he would dart away. 

Some of the wild fig trees were several miles up the slopes 
of the mountain and it was not until the afternoon of the ninth 
of August that all our teams were finally in position. In some 
cases the trees grew in places which were ideal for ambush; 
there would be adequate cover for our men to hide themselves 
and good observation points at hand. But other trees grew in 
spots where a rabbit could not conceal itself, where the trees had 
drained all the strength from the soil, and even grass would not 
gjrow. Our men took up the best positions they could find, and 
after covering their legs with their animal-skin coats to shield 
them from the hard-biting horseflies, which can sting a man to 
the border of frenzy, the long wait began. Here they were to lie 
for four days and nights unless Kimathi favoured them with a 
visit. Rain, heat, cold, wind, ants, caterpillars, wild animals, 
snakes, and all the other dangers and discomforts of the forest 
would have to be endured as they lay there. In those same 
positions the calls of nature would be answered by turning 
slowly onto their backs and scraping a small hole in the soft 
forest soil with their fingers. They would lie there as still as 
death, but all the time they would be alert and sensitive to the 
faintest rustle in the bushes, a suspicious sound or a movement 
in the trees. The events of the last few weeks had not lowered 
their respect for Kimathi's hitting power. They knew he had 


many marksmen, excellent marksmen, in his ranks. They knew 
that two of his men had been gunbearers for professional 
hunters before the emergency and could handle a gun as well 
as anyone. 

I had often watched our teams on operations in the forest 
They would lie absolutely motionless for so long that I won- 
dered whether they would ever be able to move their cramped 
limbs again. All the time their chins would be resting on their 
clenched fists and they would be staring at some particular spot 
where they believed they would first see something coining. 
They were, curiously enough, seldom wrong. Their stares 
would be so intense you would think they had seen something 
and you would try to see for yourself, but without looking at 
you they would sense your curiosity and slowly shake a finger to 
show there was nothing there. Sometimes you would hear a 
rustle in the forest and look at them inquiringly, but they 
would still be staring at the spot they had been watching for 
hours. Perhaps they had not heard it, you would think, but 
before you could move, they would quietly whisper **Ngim 
[Sykes]," or "Thwara [buck],* or "Kanyoni [bird]/* and you 
would lie back, feeling ignorant and a bit embarrassed. In the 
forest they knew the answers to everything; outside they knew 
nothing. In the forest it was always safest to leave everything 
to them. After operating with them a few times you would very 
quickly realise when something unusual was in the vicinity. 
Instinctively they would pull their fists away from their chins 
and their heads would drop an inch or two. This was a reflex 
action developed in the days when they were often under fire. 
Then their heads would turn very slowly in die direction from 
which they suspected the intruder was coining and by tapping 
a little twig on the ground or on a dry leaf, they would signal 
messages to one another. Their bodies would curl up. And then 
one man would give the signal to attack. A low in-drawn 
whistle meant "Fire"; two sharp clicks with a finger meant 
"Rush"; and when they fired, or when they rose to their feet 
and rushed, they would react with surprising speed, darting 


through the tangled, forbidding undergrowth with a grace and 
ease that was fascinating. 

Often it would not be the recognised leader who gave the 
signal for action. The Mau Mau knew that in the forest it was 
the man who could see or hear best who was best able to direct 
the others, while the usual leader might sometimes be unable 
to see what was going on. 

We found that number "3" tree, which stood about a quarter 
of a mile south of the Itha stream, had been visited by Kimathi 
only two or three days before our arrival. Number "6" tree, 
about eleven miles to the west; had been visited about two 
weeks before that. In each case there were traces of honey on 
the ground, honey which Kimathi had spilt there as an offering 
to Ngai and which had attracted a variety of butterflies. 

The first day passed uneventfully as did the second, although 
our team at number V tree heard a single rifle shot in the 
distance during the evening. But on the afternoon of the third 
day the monotony was broken by an incident which could have 
had far-reaching consequences. A strong wind blew up towards 
midday in the eastern sector of the Tree Tops Salient where 
Number "i w team was operating. As the team lay bunched to- 
gether beneath the tree, two large and very poisonous puff 
adders fell from the branches on to the back of one of our men. 
Fortunately the reptiles wriggled off into the bush without strik- 
ing at the petrified terrorist, but the team as a whole was sure 
that "it was an act of God" and that "Ngai was angry with 
them for being there." They immediately left the tree and 
rushed back to our tactical base higher up in the forest We 
did everything we could to convince them that the snakes had 
fallen out of the tree because they had been mating or because 
of the high wind. We told them that it was absurd to think 
Ngai had thrown the snakes at them, but they were still most 
upset. MacLachlan and I looked at my Arab-silver bracelet. 
Perhaps the evil spirits of the forest were going to defeat my 
lucky charm. Here was something which could alter the whole 
course of these operations and make our terrorists go on strike. 


Not even Gati, our formidable disciplinarian, would have been 
able to cope with evil spirits. 

But the following morning, the fourth and last day of the 
operation, our patience was rewarded. At number "7** tree, 
which stood where the Mwathe and Tree Tops regions join, 
a single terrorist appeared for a moment some four hundred 
yards up the slope of a steep hill and quickly dropped out of 
sight. In that split second one of our men caught sight of frfrn 
and signalled word to his companions. As this was the day when 
they were going to withdraw according to our plan, the team 
thought at first that a messanger was coming to them to tell 
them to remain where they were for another two or three days, 
but when the figure appeared again, closer this time, they were 
unable to identify V'm as one of our men. He was tall and 
heavily built, his hair which was exceptionally long, fell over 
his shoulders and, unlike anyone in our force, he was wearing 
a shirt and trousers made of old tarpaulin. 

The terrorist came further and further down the hill, jumping 
quickly from one thicket to another. At one moment our team 
thought that he looked like one of their colleagues named 
Thiaka. There was a whispered discussion. All were agreed 
that the intruder looked like Thiaka, but he did not move like 
Thiaka. Then about one hundred and fifty yards away from the 
mugumo tree, the intruder jumped into a particularly thick 
patch of bush and did not come out again. Half an hour passed, 
then an hour, then two hours, but there was no further sign of 
him. It was all very odd. Our men were certain that they would 
have seen him leave the patch if he had done so. 

When the sun was noon-high, and their curiosity had been 
stretched to its limit, the team decided to go and look for them- 
selves. Splitting up into two parties, they wriggled back on 
their stomachs until they were in a small ditch from which they 
could circle round the flanks of the hill, one party climbing it 
from the left and the other from the right. Within five minutes 


they found another ditch about four feet deep running along 
the hillside for nearly sixty yards. At its head and also at a point 
where the mugumo tree could be most easily seen, were the 
footprints of their man. They could see where he had stood, not 
only on that day but also several times before. The ground had 
been trodden hard, and a light branch which had interfered 
with his view had been snipped off with a sharp knife and 
tucked away underneath the bushes to dry. Now it was obvious 
that the intruder was one of Kimathf s men and that he had 
been scouting to see whether it was safe for his leader to come 
and pray beneath the tree. 

Our men followed the tracks from the top of the ditch to the 
bottom where they disappeared into the forest. There they 
halted to discuss what they should do. First they thought that 
it would be best to return to the tree and wait until the scout 
had told Kimathi that it was safe to come, but what if they had 
been seen? And then they realised that they were supposed to 
withdraw that same evening. Even if the scout had not seen 
them, someone was sure to come out to look for them if they 
did not go back to the base that night and there would be a 
risk either of shooting their own friends in the darkness or of 
the searchers scaring Kimathi away. They decided to follow 
up the tracks. 

Gacheru was the most proficient tracker among them and 
from the start he set a fast pace. Sometimes he would stop for 
a few seconds to study some special mark on the trail, but there 
were no real problems. The pursuit went on from hill to hill, 
valley to valley, and river to river, until Gacheru fell back to 
the rear and his place at the front was taken by the next man. 
Like all good trackers, Gacheru would get a bad headache after 
a few miles.* fWhen you track human beings in the jungle you 
do not focus your eyes on anything specific on the ground but 
rather on the general scene ahead. In the words of a most ex- 
pert Mau Mau tracker, "the ground is lifted and brought up 
near the eyes so that the direction of travel can be seen and 
not the footprints." 


The course taken by the lone terrorist led southwards towards 
the bamboo in the massive Zaina valley, which is almost two 
thousand feet deep in parts, and our team was getting worried; 
tracking in bamboo is always difficult, but tracking inside the 
Zaina valley is even more difficult. Furthermore, as our men 
had no food left, there was little hope of a meal for at least 
another two days if they continued on their way. These 
thoughts were not comforting, but the tracks were fresh, their 
blood was up, and the team rushed on like a pack erf dogs 
after a fox. 

Throughout the afternoon the hunt continued. Fortunately 
the terrorist had swung westwards towards higher ground in- 
stead of going down into the Zaina valley and, as his course 
was fairly direct from this point, it was clear that he knew ex- 
actly where he could rejoin his gang. But the pace of our team 
got slower and slower as the tracks became more difficult to see 
in the fading light. It was now a race against time, for once 
darkness fell the pursuit would have to be called off. Gacheru 
again took the lead and they moved on quickly. 

They were beginning to wonder how far their quarry was 
going, for they had already tracked him some thirteen miles, 
when suddenly, in the wind, Gacheru heard KimathTs high- 
pitched voice. "Wiyite Ritwa! [Name yourself]!" Gacheru 
stopped. The team stopped with their weapons ready. "Jeriko," 
shouted back Gacheru, who knew that Kimathf could not have 
heard of Jeriko's capture, as nobody had escaped during the 
engagement. There was hardly a moment between Gacheru's 
answer and Kimathf s reply. "Never," he shouted in English, 
and with that pandemonium broke out in the bamboo about 
forty yards ahead as he and his gang dashed into the under- 

Firing their guns from the hip, our team went crashing after 
them. They hurdled fallen bamboo poles. They climbed under 
others. And, as they charged, they had to protect their eyes 
from the network of sharp dry sticks which are an added haz- 
ard to pursuit in the bamboo. Hie first of the running gangsters 


to come in sight was Karau, whom Kimathi had made a "gen- 
eral" only a few days before. A burst of Patchett fire knocked 
a wooden honey container from his hand. He was not hit, but 
he lost his nerve and was found lying on his back with his knees 
drawn up to his chin as though trying to shield his heart from 
the next volley. 

As the team paused to tie him up, a hand grenade exploded 
thirty yards to their left. Then there was a noise in another bam- 
boo thicket just ahead. Three of our men opened up with their 
automatics. They were sure they had hit one more of Kimathfs 
gang. Our men went forward. There was no sign that their 
bullets had found their target. As soon as they began to probe 
around, however, they came across a deep bomb crater covered 
with a tangled mass of bamboo. At the bottom was another of 
Kimathf s men. He had fallen into the crater as a buck would 
fall into a pit trap. The noise that our men had heard was 
caused by this man trying to climb out 

Immediately he saw the team on the edge of the crater look- 
ing down at him, the terrorist crouched in the shadows with 
his sinti drawn ready to slash anyone who went down after 
him. He was told repeatedly that he was covered and should 
come out, but nothing would move him. Several shots were then 
fired into the crater but still he did not move or speak. Finally 
the covering mattress of bamboo was set alight and he was 
dragged out with a long pole as the flames licked about him. 

Meanwhile Kimathi and his remnants were travelling fast. By 
the time Karau had been tied up and his companion pulled 
out of the crater, the gang had disappeared completely. There 
was nothing to be gained by following him in the last half hour 
of daylight, as the hunt would have to be called off within a few 
minutes. Taking a short cut through the forest and making the 
most of the dwindling light, our men and their prisoners set off 
at a brisk pace for base, which they reached just before mid- 
night All the way back they talked about Kimathi and his 
gang. Why, they wondered, had Kimathi not been the one to 
faD into the crater? Karau told them that he had been to the 


ditch in the morning. He had been scouting for Kimathi just a< 
they had guessed. What a pity, our men thought, that he had 
not been caught before he reached his leader for then he might 
have led them even closer to Kimathi. These thoughts filled 
the team with anguish. But a cause of even greater anguish 
was the fact that Wanjiru, a weak and powerless woman in 
their eyes, had been with the gang and got away from them. 
The disgrace of missing a mere woman was too terrible to bear. 
They were sure that it would take the ministrations of a medi- 
cine man and the sacrifice of a black sheep to wash away their 
disgrace and stop their comrades from mocking them. 

Their fears of being jeered at by their friends in camp were, 
however, quite unfounded. When Gacheru and his party 
arrived, everyone turned out to hear what they had to say and 
when they heard that the woman in question was none other 
than Wanjiru, Kimathfs Wanjiru, they were not the least sur- 
prised* Although she had been cared for like a child in the 
forest, they knew that she could run like a gazelle, fight like 
a cat, shoot like an archer and that she was more than a match 
for any ordinary man. That one," said Ruku to Gacheru, "that 
one is not a female. She is one to be watched very carefully 
with two eyes in the front and two in the bade and never wag 
your tail when she is near." 

Later that night there was great rejoicing round tie camp 
fires. Gacheru and his team had much to say about the dajfs 
events. As the flames from our eight fires flickered against the 
trees, lighting up the ugly faces of our collaborators, the story 
of the day was told over and over again. Gacheru held the 
centre of the stage with his stirring accounts of the pursuit and 
the battle. He stood where all could see him demonstrate how 
he crouched to peer through the forest when Kimathf had chal- 
lenged him, how he ran forward, and exactly what he had done 
at the bomb crater* It was stirring stuff and the tale of those 
miserable victims of the puff adder episode attracted little in- 
terest The conversation wait something like this: 


RUKU: "Did you really hear Kimathf s voice?" 
GACHERU: "Very much so, like a horn being blown." 
WAIRA: "Weeeeel At that time he was alert like a fly." 
EVERYONE: "Noguo, noguo." (laughter) 
GACHERU: "But, Kasiil he beat the bush like an elephant." 
RUKU: "It is as though you have never seen Kimathi run 
before. A .22, wouldn't catch him, probably only a .303! ( laugh- 
ter) Even now he is still running and I know his men will look 
for him for four days." 

EVERYONE: "Nogwo, noguo. Even five days." ( laughter ) 
GACHERU: "But it is very bad for someone to suddenly shout 
*Name yourself/ And you couldn't possibly see him. You might 
become too alarmed." 

GATT. "Aaaaaaah! You must be stupid. Do you think he is 
not alarmed too when he says that? He is pulling his tail very 
hard between his legs." 

RUKWARO: "That is it, for the little mouse squeals when its 
tail is stood on." (laughter) 

Then everyone would talk at the same time and nobody 
would listen and there would be several minutes of pande- 
monium. But after a while only the most talkative would keep 

GACHERU : "If you hear Kimathfs voice you will be most sur- 

NJERU: "Don't you know he was already running when he 

THIA: "No, he would be crouched down looking ahead." 

GACHERU: "There is nothing like that Even Karau told me 
that when he shouted his feet were already doing . . ." 
(Gacheru would demonstrate a dog-paddle amid laughter) 

GATI: "None of them will eat for three days now and any- 
one who touches food with his finger will be lolled.** 

EVERYONE: "Noguo, that is it absolutely." 

KJRATA: "He will pray and pray and pray." 


GACHERU (standing up) : "What you are doing is not good. 
You must let me talk. I was there. " 

THIA: "Kimathi might kill two people because of this." 

EVERYONE: "Noguo, noguo" (laughter) 

GACHERU: "Please realise that I was there and for that rea- 
son there is only room for me to speak." 

RUKU: "Noguo, go ahead, but tie up your words for we have 
heard them for long enough/* 

WANJAU: "But that woman, she is like lightning.'* 

GACHERU (annoyed): "AH right, you stand, Wanjau." 

RUKU: "I don't want to hear anyone talk about Wanjiru. It 
is too much.** 

EJDBATA: "That one will never be caught by the bum [their 
word for surrender] because she will kill herself first/* 

And so the conversation continued. When they were too tired 
to sit up, they lay down on the ground and continued talking. 
When the fires had died down and the cold early morning 
breeze began to blow, they covered their bodies and their heads 
with empty jute bags, mumbling to one another until the dawn 

So "Operation Wild Fig," as we called it, had not been en- 
tirely unproductive. Only thirteen members of the gang were 
left at large. The trap itself had not caught anyone, but the 
art of trapping had. 



Iri Kanwa itiri nda. 

Food in the mouth is not yet in the stomach. 

Do not cry herrings till they are in the net. 

BECAUSE OF OUR GROWING operational strength, we had to in- 
crease our staff. Finding men who had the temperament and 
liking for this type of work was difficult, but there were many 
volunteers and eight were finally chosen. From the Kenya 
Regiment came three young soldiers, Bill Eastbrook, Laurie 
Pearse, and Jim Stephen, all Kenya-born, all under twenty, all 
strong and single. From the Kenya police came three fit and 
seasoned men, Colin Leath, Patrick Smith, and Dick Crow and 
two outstanding Africans, Busani, a Mkamba, and Kiprotich, 
a Nandi. 

In a remarkably short space of time all these men had become 
experts in the delicate task of handling Mau Mau pseudo-terror- 
ists. Busani and Kiprotich had worked with me before during 
the emergency and Leath already had considerable experience 
in pseudo-gang operations. 

Time and time again these young men went into the forest 
on their own to operate the teams. Their readiness to face 


danger when alone with the terrorists and far off from their 
colleagues was admirable. With the aid of these men it was 
possible to expand the force still further and bring even greater 
pressure to bear on Kimathi and other terrorists remaining in 
the forest. 

Some days after his capture, Karau told us about a meeting 
Kimathi had arranged with the gang leader called Chege 
Karobia, the terrorist from whom Gati and Hungu had sought 
shelter when they had fled from Kimathi on the Moorlands. Ac- 
cording to Karau, Kimathi had found Chege's game traps to- 
wards the end of July, and to fill the gaps in his own ranks, he 
decided to take over Chege and his followers. The traps were to 
be the first channel of communication between the two groups. 
With this take-over in mind, he had sent some of his men to sit 
by the snares and wait for Chege. On the third of August, when 
two of Chege's men turned up, Kimathi gave them food and 
sent them away with a letter inviting their leader to a meeting. 

A week later Chege replied and sent word back with the 
same two men saying that he was ready to meet Kimathi and 
suggesting a rendezvous on die twenty-sixth of August This 
news had been kept very secret by KimaihL Though he told 
his men about his pkn and also about the date, he had been 
very careful not to tell them where they would meet As a 
result, Karau had not the faintest idea where to lead us. Hiere 
were now less than one hundred terrorists at large on the Aber- 
dares, but we did not want Kimathi to recruit them. 

Luck was now on our side. Two days after Karau gave us his 
information, Chege Karobia, the only terrorist in the f orest who 
could tell us where the meeting was going to be held, was 
captured with four other members of his gang by one of our 
teams operating under Colin LeatL Nothing could have been 
more timely. We celebrated in the best of traditions! 

Chege, who stood barely five foot on his tip-toes, was a terror- 
ist of no little importance. He had been in the jungle since 
sarly 1953 and had risen to a level of prominence which en- 
itled him to visit various gangs operating in the western Aber- 


dares and issue instructions to them. He had once been closely 
associated with Kimathi who (at meetings of the Ituma Demi 
Trinity Council) had shown an unusual liking for him. 

Unlike other Mau Mau who sought refuge in the depths of 
the forest, he had thought it far safer to hide as near to the 
forest edge as possible. He had camped close to a large timber 
mill called Geta at the foot of Kipipiri. He believed that nobody 
would look for him near a major logging centre where hundreds 
of civilian Africans were employed. He made no hideout be- 
cause the workers from the mill would be certain to find it 
when they wandered through the woods trying to trap buck. 
Instead, he slept with his gang near the labour camp and fed 
on buck taken from the labourers* traps. He never tried to con- 
ceal his tracks which were merged with those of the workers 
and he cooked at night on well-hidden fires which were camou- 
flaged by smoke from the camp kitchens. 

The gangs which Chege once controlled had suffered very 
severely in the last nine months and Kimathfs invitation 
reached Chege at a time when he was desperately worried 
about the thought of losing more men. He thought that, at any 
moment, he might be left alone without anyone to hunt and 
forage for him and he had, in fact, been greatly comforted by 
Kimathfs overtures. 

As soon as he fell into our hands, we tried to get him to 
tell us where the rendezvous would be and, knowing that he 
would not be very pleased to hear of Kimathfs plot, we con- 
fronted him with Karau, who made no bones about the fact 
that there was to be no question of reaching any agreement 
with Kimathi and that he and his men were to be captured 
and forced to serve a new master. Chege was furious and he 
soon began to tell us all about the arrangements he had made 
for the meeting, which was to take place on a hill called Ruri- 
meria in the central part of the Moorlands. He also told us how 
both gangs had arranged to use either of two secret letter boxes 
high on the Aberdares in case something went wrong and the 
meeting had to be cancelled. 


It was clear that the cunning Kimathi had not agreed to any- 
thing which would expose him too much. He himself would 
not be going to Rurimeria. He would send some of his hench- 
men to meet Chege and they were to guide Chege to a place 
where he would be waiting. No one, not even Chege, had the 
remotest idea where that would be. We were back with our 
old problem, how to get at Kimathi Our men couldn't go to 
the rendezvous on the hill, for they would not be taken on to the 
next rendezvous. If Chege and his four followers went, they 
would be powerless for they had no firearms and we did not 
trust them enough to arm them ourselves. 

With no answer in mind, we set off to carry out a reconnais- 
sance of Rurimeria Hill and the surrounding country. We 
squeezed no less than fourteen team leaders, plus Chege and 
one of his men, into our Land Rover, and we climbed up the 
Aberdares by the old Fort Jerusalem track and finally stopped 
by a river called the Karimu where we could see the whole 
area. After studying the country with my binoculars, which 
fascinated our terrorists, it was clear that our greatest difficulty 
was going to be getting into the area^unseen. The whole region 
was dotted with little hillocks and from die top of each one 
you could watch many miles of the open Moorlands with ease. 
This meant that we had to move by night There was no other 

While we were up there discussing the matter, Gati sug- 
gested that we get Chege to write a letter to Kimathi con- 
firming the fact that he would be attending the meeting come 
hail or high water. We had failed to nrake up our minds on 
anything else, so we happily spent the rest of the day dictating 
a letter to Knnqfhi which Chege wrote. 

When we reached the first letter box, an isolated mukeu tree, 
we found that it had been uprooted and smashed by an ele- 
phant sometime during the previous week. Tbe question of 
whether the anfmaT had done this because of its dislike for 
TTimflfhi^ or because of its disKke for Chege, was heatedly 
argued by our terrorists, but they were at least agreed that 


we should go on to the second box. This one was also in a tree. 
After Chege had placed his letter in a hollow, he broke off a 
branch from a nearby mukorombothi tree and stuck it in the 
ground at the base of the letter box. He then went some yards 
away, broke off another small branch, and stuck this one at the 
foot of a different tree. He told us that he had arranged with 
Kimathi's messengers that the letter box would not be checked, 
even if it obviously contained a letter, unless both these 
branches were in position. The security forces could easily plant 
a fictitious letter, but they would not know about the two 
branches. That was a secret shared by Chege and Kimathi 

We had all milled around the letter box, and Chege very 
sensibly drew our attention to our tracks. "What do you sup- 
pose Kimathf s men will say when they see the tracks of seven- 
teen people here and they know there are only a total of five 
of us in my gang?" he asked. 'They will not say anything," 
replied Gati, "they will simply go up into the air like a jet." 
When we stopped laughing, we set about the task of removing 
every superfluous mark within two hundred yards of the tree 
and this took some time. It was almost six o'clock when we 
arrived back at our Land Rover on the Karimu River. 

That evening, as we were leaving the Moorlands, we en- 
countered some old friends six waterbuck. These old faithfuls 
had been in that very locality for the past eighteen months and 
I had never once been through the area without seeing them. 
They had become almost part of the landscape, and I often 
thought how unfortunate it was that they could not tell us about 
Kimathi and the hundreds of other terrorists who must have 
passed before their eyes. 

When we arrived back at our base camp, I suddenly realised 
that Kimathi might tell his confederates where the meeting 
was going to be held, and knowing that nothing could cancel 
his plans more certainly than the capture of one of his men, I 
decided to withdraw all our teams from the forest as quickly as 


possible. For the first time since our operations began, we did 
not want to lay hands on any of Kimathi's followers. 

In the next few days at our Mayfield camp, we racked our 
brains to find a foolproof plan for dealing with the meeting but 
whichever way we looked at the problem, we found that there 
was no alternative to sending Chege and his four men to make 
the initial contact on the hill. As Kimathi knew that they had 
no guns, they would have to go unarmed. But what were we 
going to do once Chege had made his contact? Somehow we 
had to find a way of trailing the party on the hill until they 
reached Kimathi. 

The decision to send Chege and his companions alone did 
not please them. They were petrified at the thought of going 
unarmed to meet Kimathi's men. "If you want to finish us/' 
said Chege, "finish us here, but do not send us to be finished 
by Kimathi/' After a great deal of persuasion they finally agreed 
to go, provided the area was completely surrounded by our 
men, and that this force was so deployed that the meeting point 
on the hill would be kept under continuous observation from 
all sides. 

With all this in mind we drew up our final plans. At ten 
o'clock on the morning of the meeting, Chege and his men 
would travel over the open ground so that, from a distance, 
they could be counted and identified by Kimathi's men. The 
night before, sixteen well-armed teams would have moved up 
through the forest onto the Moorlands and, in the darkness of 
night, they would surround the hill about a mile from its sum- 
mit. Each team would be five strong so that, if their tracks 
were seen, Kimathi's men would assume they were Chege's. 
The positions that the teams would take up would enable at 
least half of them to watch the meeting pkce on Rurimeria 
throughout the daylight hours, and at least three teams would 
be able to trail the party on whichever side of the hill they 
ultimately went down. After the two gangs had met when 
Chege was being led away to Kimathi our men would follow 


them at a discreet distance. If Kimathi was hiding so far away 
that the party had not arrived before dusk, Kimathf s guides 
were to be captured and made to reveal where their leader 
was lying up. We could do no more. 

During the night of the twenty-fifth of August, our force was 
dropped off in pitch darkness at the bottom of the Marishimiti 
gorge on the west side of the Aberdares. There was a last-min- 
ute shuffling about as they checked their arms and crowded 
round their leaders, then each leader had a final word to say 
to Chege who, in turn, had much to say to them his Me de- 
pended on their alertness. Before they set off up the mountain 
for Rurimeria, which was eleven miles away, every man came 
up and shook hands with us. There were hands which were 
hard and rough like the bark of a log; there were others which 
were sticky with filth and honey; some hands were deformed, 
while others were firm and confident 

Here in the dark forest three Europeans were shaking hands 
with nearly a hundred well-armed Mau Mau who, only a short 
while before, would have much enjoyed murdering us. While 
I personally never thought that any of them wanted to do us 
harm, for we had turned them psychologically until they would 
willingly have given their lives for us, I was deeply conscious 
of one possible weak link a supernatural omen which they 
might interpret as a sign of Ngaf s wrath. It could be an earth 
tremor, it could be a particularly bright meteorite falling 
through the atmosphere, it could be an unusual sound in the 
forest, it could be snakes faffing from a tree, or it could be 
anything else which was weird and uncommon. Little things 
could have a disastrous effect upon such highly superstitious 
people. The risk was small, very, very small, but it was present 
and its presence was enough to cause anxiety. Only a year or 
so before thousands of them had been ready to accept our bid 
to get them to surrender. Then a terrorist had found a small, 
red prayer-book written in some oriental language which they 
could not understand. Perhaps it had fallen from a plane. 
Perhaps a soldier had dropped it. Perhaps it had slipped out 


of someone's pack. But a group of witch doctors decided that 
the book had been dropped by Ngai to tell them to remain in 
the forest and the surrender talks broke down. We were always 
vulnerable to evil spirits. 

Soon the teams left us and a feeling of uncertain expectancy 
descended upon those of us who were waiting. There were 
many things to worry about but nothing positive could now be 
done about any of them. In this state of mind we could not 
sleep, nor could we stop talking about our fears and our hopes. 
The night passed slowly and eventually none of us had any- 
thing more to say. One by one we moved away to sit or lie 
down and think in silence until dawn came, with the warming 
sun and the greater confidence that heat brings. 

By dawn all the teams were in position round Rurimeria Hill 
and at ten o'clock Chege and his gang began their final ap- 
proach. Across the Moorlands they came in single file; as they 
climbed the hillside everyone of them could be seen by our 
men but when they reached the top, there was no sign of any 
of Kimathfs henchmen. They could do nothing but sit down 
and wait. 

All day they waited patiently, walking about the top every 
hour or so to show the teams around them that they were still 
there, but nobody turned up. That night, when they realised 
they could be captured and taken away without the knowledge 
of the teams, they moved halfway down the hill and lay silently, 
ready to run at the first sign of someone approaching. But by 
dawn there was still no sign of Kimathf s men. They thought 
he had probably made a mistake in his dates and would be 
coming during the next day, but, as before, this was not to be. 
Throughout the third day and night they ky there, with the 
teams in formation around them, and still nobody came. 

By this time those of us lower down the mountain and out of 
contact with the situation were becoming very worried. First 
we imagined that they must have contacted Kimathi and were 
pursuing him, but we could not understand why, if this was 
so, our men had not sent a runner to tell us what was happen- 


ing as they usually did. Then we imagined that our teams must 
still be waiting round the hill, but this also seemed unlikely; 
our men knew how punctual the Mau Mau were and it would 
be most unusual for them to wait even one day longer than the 
specified date. 

On the afternoon of the fourth day, tired, weary, and very 
hungry after their long, unproductive ambush, all our teams left 
their positions and set off down the mountain towards us, with- 
drawing Chege and his gang en route. Some hours later they 
reached us, exhausted. **This is another thing to me," said Gati 
on arrival "The Mau Mau never fail to keep an arrangement 
unless an operation is going on." I suggested that the tracks of 
our men or the teams themselves had probably been seen. 
"There is nothing like that and even Kimathi will confirm what 
I say when we catch him," replied GatL 

When we arrived back at Mayfield camp the following day, 
our team leaders, ever suspicious of anything said or done by 
Kimathf s gangsters who had misled them so many times before, 
immediately pounced on Karau and accused him of having 
known all the time where the meeting was to have taken place. 
They were certain that Kimathi would have turned up if some- 
one from his gang, who knew his secret, had not been captured. 
As Karau was the last member of the gang to fall into our 
hands, they presumed that he must have known far more 
than he told us. <c When another man is caught ask him and 
if he says I knew about that, you may kill me," he said. "Nogi/a, 
nogoo/* agreed the team leaders. "liat is exactly what we will 

However, it was not long before we had our next contact 
with the gang and captured more prisoners from whom we 
were able to discover the reason for Kimathf s failure to attend 
the meeting. It turned out that he had been determined to go 
to Rurimeria Hill right up until the very last moment He had 
crossed the Honi River, then the Chania River, and had slept 
the night of August the twenty-fifth in the Kanjema area on 
the Moorlands where there are many small lakes. As Kanjema 


was only some four miles from Rurimeria, he had no distance 
to travel the following day. What is more, he had even planned 
to meet Chege on the hilltop himself just in case any of his 
men were frightened of "snatching" the party because it con- 
tained another leader. But during the night, while he and all 
his men and Wanjiru were asleep on a small island in the centre 
of one of the lakes, he had suddenly awoken in a state of great 
alarm, ordered everyone to get up and move on. His men 
pleaded with him to wait until the dawn before he moved, but 
he was adamant. He told them he had had a dream in which 
he had seen himself captured on a hill and that had decided 
him. In the freezing cold of the night, he and his gang waded 
through the water and trekked across the Moorlands. By dawn 
they had reached the forest on the eastern side of the mountain. 
Once again, his dreams had saved his Mel 

The spirits that warned Kimathi of impending danger were 
certainly not able to soothe his temper once his nerves were 
jangling. His behaviour in the days following his dream at Kan- 
jema amounted to a reign of terror. 

As he headed back from Kanjema he walked some fifty yards 
behind his men. Not even Wanjiru, his favourite, was allowed 
near him. He walked with his hands on his hips as he always 
did when he was annoyed, and from his erratic shambling walk 
it was obvious to his men that he was crazed with temper. 
Twice they slowed to make sure that he was still behind and 
twice, as he came up to them, he raged at them, abused them, 
threatened them, and chased them on. Just before dawn, his 
men came to an abrupt stop as he screamed at them, "Hiti id, 
mwathie ku [You hyenas, where are you going]?" Without 
waiting for him to come up, they altered course and went on. . 
Kimathi did not often shout at night. 

As Chege was approaching the top of Rurimeria Hill, Ki- 
mathi arrived at the place which was to be his lair for the next 
two days. The site was less than three miles from one of his 
prayer trees, the Kinaini River was a mile to the south, and 
behind the hideout was a deep crater nearly seventy yards 


long and thirty yards wide. From a' defensive point of view, he 
could not have chosen a better place. He could only be ap- 
proached by climbing the steep side of the crater which was 
jagged and slippery. 

As soon as he arrived, he snatched a rifle from the shoulder 
of one of his men and ordered two of his followers, Gitahi and 
Maragua, to accompany him into the forest. There they sat 
down. For some minutes he was silent and looked only at the 
ground in front of him, but then he slowly raised his head and 
stared at the two terrorists. Throughout the forest it was known 
that when Kimathi stared at a man, the victim would freeze 
with terror. Death glimmered in his wide, bloodshot eyes, red- 
dened by the bhang or wild tobacco which he habitually put 
in them. Many times before a glare from these eyes had made a 
terrorist beg for mercy before a word had been spoken. Gitahi 
and Maragua were sure that they would die. Trembling with 
anger, Kimathi held out his right hand and pointed to one of his 
fingers. "How many joints are there in this finger?" "Three," re- 
plied Gitahi. "Asorite" answered Kimathi, using the pidgin 
English he often spoke when trying to impress his listeners. 
He then went on to tell them that he was the first joint, nearest 
the blood and therefore nearest to Ngai; Gitahi was the second 
because he was trustworthy, he had been captured by the en- 
emy and then escaped; Maragua was the third joint, affixed to 
the others Tike an unborn child to its mother." Because of that, 
Kimathi continued, they were his "eyes and strength" and they 
were to stand by him until they all died together. Gitahi and 
Maragua were pleased to hear this. Even Ngai, they thought, 
could not have bestowed a greater honour upon them. 

Still shaking with anger, Kimathi ordered his two favourites 
to fetch another terrorist named Githua, and soon this unfortu- 
nate man was brought along, his wrists bound with trapping 
wires. When Githua stood before him, Kimathi rose to his feet, 
spat on the ground to dear his throat, "and began to accuse 
him of treachery. He gave Githua no chance to answer. For 
several minutes the outburst continued. Where had Githua been 


when he went off to contact Chege Karobia some weeks be- 
fore? He had been away a very long time. Was it not clear 
that he had taken the opportunity of betraying them all to the 
enemy? Githua pleaded with Kimathi to let him speak, but it 
was no good. "I even saw you in my dream telling the white 
men about the meeting at Rurimeria," Kimathi claimed* The 
"trial" was over. Githua was tackled and thrown to the ground 
where he was pinned down. A trapping wire was then forced 
over his head, and Kimathi tightened the noose with both his 
hands. Githua's eyes widened, he spluttered, his limbs shook 
and stretched, his tongue curled out of his mouth. His body 
was dragged away and stuffed down an antbear hole. Kimathi 
enjoyed pushing his victims into antbear holes. 

After this, Kimathi returned to the hideout where the rest 
of his followers were sitting silently. They knew from the ex- 
pression on his face that Githua was dead, but they felt neither 
sympathy for their ex-colleague, nor anger with Kimathi. Their 
own lives, they thought, had been saved by Kimathfs dream, 
and if he had seen that Githua was a traitor, he must have 
been one. Kimathfs dreams were infallible. Nevertheless, they 
were worried. They were tormented by the thought that they 
might have done something unknowingly which was also wrong 
in Kimathfs eyes, which he would see in his dreams and which 
would send them along the road taken by all his victimsinto 
the antbear hole, head first, and dead. 

Kimathfs eyes were quick to find fault. He was looking for 
trouble. While Githua's "Cira," or "trial," had been in progress, 
Wanjiru had remained with the men instead of sitting apart 
where they could not "disease her mind." He believed he was 
the only male who could talk to a woman without ruining her. 
When he discovered that she had stayed with the men, he 
gripped her by the wrist and dragged her off to the edge of 
the crater. There he thrashed her with a bamboo stick and de- 
manded that she should tell him what the men had said to her. 
In his own words, she had to "tahikia ndeto thuku" or "vomit 
out the words" which were spoiling her mind. 


Leaving Wanjiru crying on the ground, lie came back into 
the hideout where he had made yet another awesome row, 
this time with his favourite Gitahi who had stupidly cut three 
munyamate sticks to support the cooking pot over the fire. They 
all knew that this type of wood would quickly catch fire in 
the flames and let the cooking pot fall into the fire. 

Nothing pleased Kimathi. He threatened his men several 
times. He told them that when they next made a mistake he 
would re-oath them by making them eat Githua's intestines 
which they would have to dig out of the antbear hole. He 
knicked his finger with a knife and, while it was bleeding, 
placed it in a gourd of water so that his blood could be drunk 
by all present "When you drink my blood,'* he said, 'your fool- 
ishness will disappear and you will have sense like me." 

When the sun had set and darkness fell, Kimathi went away 
and lay down beneath the trunk of a fallen tree. He had a 
rifle on one side and a revolver on the other. Throughout the 
night he tossed and turned in the grip of a nightmare. At times 
he sat up abruptly and looked around for a minute or two be- 
fore lying down to sleep again. His men sat watching him. Once 
whefc he groaned very loudly some suggested going over to 
find out if he was in trouble, but they knew he had gone to 
lie beneath the tree so that nobody could strike at him, and 
they knew he had taken the guns because he feared that he 
would be attacked. If they went near him, therefore, he would 
be sure to think that they were coming to kill him and they 
would be shot for their trouble. He was best left alone to toss 
and turn until a new day had dawned. 

One of the most remarkable things about Kimathf s gang was 
the implicit loyalty of his followers. They never plotted against 
him despite his savagery to them. He might lick his lips at the 
thought of killing them, but they never dreamt of shooting him 
as he slept. Kimathi, however, did not seem to realise how safe 
he was, for whenever he murdered one of his men, or swore 
at them, or beat them, he took great care to see that his men 
did not get a chance to attack him without warning. If he had 


known how difficult we found it to get his men to co-operate 
with us, he would, perhaps have been less suspicious of them. 

At the first glimmer of dawn, Kimathi rose and set off alone 
to study the behaviour of the partridges. He believed, as did 
most other Mau Mau, that if partridges took to wing and scat- 
tered as soon as human beings came upon them, the day would 
end in tragedy. On the other hand, if they scurried along the 
ground for a few yards before flying away, they would be show- 
ing the muirigo, or the "way," and this was an omen of good 
fortune. When he returned to the hideout, he was in a better 
frame of mind and his followers knew that the partridges must 
have scurried. 

As there was only a little decomposed buck meat left from 
the food the gang had carried to Kanjema and back, he told 
some of his men to go off to look for honey, while others were 
detailed to go and search for buck paths in the forest. By eve- 
ning everyone was back again, but their reports were not good. 
There was no honey in the area, and there were too many wild 
pig about who would break the trapping wires as soon as they 
were snared. Once again Kimathi grew angry and jeered at his 
men for being no better than women. As darkness fell he took 
Ngunyi aside to listen to the animal noises in the forest and 
asked him what the animals were saying, but whenever Ngunyi 
confessed ignorance or gave an opinion which differed from 
Kimathi's, he too was called a woman. 

Sometime that night nobody had any idea what time it was 
Kimathi ordered his gang to break camp and move on. They 
crossed the Kinaini River, and then the Muringate River, on 
their way to a cave once used by Juma Abdalla as a food store. 
But when they reached it they found it was empty. All the 
food had been cleared out by our teams some time before. So 
on Kimathi and his followers went until they reached that part 
of the jungle which they called Mathakwa-ini. 

During the next few days when new game traps were being 
laid, the gang grew more and more hungry. The few fruit-yield- 
ing trees were bare. Most of the bees had eaten their honey 


during the misty period and had not replenished their hives. 
Meat was, as yet, unobtainable as their traps were only now 
going up. What little food they did find was given to Kimathi 
and Wanjiru. Three hyrax were caught in an ingenious but 
cruel way. When their holes in the trees were discovered, a 
long, pliant stick, spliced at the tip, was thrust up the hole until 
the hyrax felt the tip boring into their bodies and screedhed. 
Then the terrorists turned the stick so that the soft woolly hair 
of the animals was wound round the tip. They were then pulled 
down, clubbed to death, and given to Kimathi and Wanjiru. 
For the other members of the gang, lack of food soon became 
a desperate problem. Old buckskin garments were boiled and* 
eaten after the hair had been scraped off, rats were welcome 
morsels, some roots were dug up and boiled for their juices. The 
gangsters took it in turn to sit near their game traps to make 
sure that when a buck was caught it would not be eaten by 
hyenas or leopards. Spurred on by hunger, Kimathf s men were 
sitting in pairs by their widely scattered traps. They were still 
sitting there when our operations began again after the abortive 
operation of Rurimeria Hill, and in the first week of September 
we caught four more of Kimathi's men. All four were sitting 
beside game traps when the teams f ound them and none had 
eaten any food for several days. We did everything possible to 
get them to tell us where Kimathi was lurking but, like the other 
captives, they were sullen and silent until they were sure that 
their disappearance had been noticed and that Kimathi had 
been given ample time to move himself, his gang, and his traps 
to a different place. Then they started talking and we heard 
all about his dream at Kanjema, about his reign of terror and 
about Githua's death. 

Even before Githua's death the gang had been cut to thirteen 
and you might have thought that this alone would prevent Ki- 
mathi from killing any more of his men. But what was logic 
to others was not logic to him. Githua's death had reduced his 
strength to twelve, and the capture of the four men at the 
traps brought him down to the meagre total of eight As Gati 


said, his organization was "rotting from the head and from the 
tail at the same time/* 

The revelations of the last men to fall into our hands crowned 
our unceasing efforts to convince our men who came from Ki- 
mathfs home district of Nyeri that he was a maniac who would, 
in time, kill .all who followed him. Our men from Nyeri and 
our men from Fort Hall were now equally keen to hunt the 
chief leader of Mau Mau to his end. 



Wa moru unungaga uri thiaka. 

A wicked man's arrow emits its unpleasant smell even if hidden in 
the quiver. 

SEPTEMBER THE FIFIEENTH dawned without a cloud in the sky. 
It was one of those days which leave a lasting impression of 
Kenya's beauty on your mind. As the sun came up behind the 
snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya, we were climbing the Ab- 
erdares from the west, facing into the sun. Eleven Land Rovers, 
carrying twelve teams, were winding their way slowly over the 
Moorlands towards the eastern slopes. This time we were enter- 
ing the "Kimathi area" by the back door to give ourselves the 
benefit of working downhill. 

The beauty of our hunting ground was overpowering. We 
were on top of the world, above the sun, looking down on a 
vast land of valleys, forests, and hills which were blanketed by 
a warm purple shadow. The night had been starry and clear 
so that there was frost on the hillsides which glittered against 
a background of greens, violets, and blues. All the little streams 
stood out like pencil lines on a map, the waterfalls sparkled 
white in the sunshine, and a gentle breeze waved the heather 
softly from side to side. Even the Moorland trees looked spry 


as their long, grey creepers (old man's beards we called them) 
swung peacefully backwards and forwards. 

As we drove along we found rhino and buffalo warming them- 
selves in the open glades. Where they were very close to the 
track, the vehicles fanned out to allow for sudden acceleration, 
if any of the animals should charge, and the terrorists kept peer- 
ing under the canvas canopies at the backs of the vehicles ready 
to raise the alarm. 

One of our main sources of amusement, apart from swap- 
ping stories about our escapes from rhino, was the little brown 
Jackson's francolin. In this high country these birds have small 
feathers growing under the scales of their legs, giving them an 
odd, morris-dancing look. Gati was convinced that "God had 
given them socks" to protect their legs from the cold, and as 
we journeyed along he gave a running commentary on the 
value and quality of the "socks" each one was wearing. 
. Every so often we came to particularly tricky parts of the 
track, where the vehicles tilted precariously on an extremely 
slippery surface. Sometimes there was a real danger that the 
vehicles would tumble down considerable precipices, and driv- 
ing them across was a difficult business. As a rule, we stopped 
the Land Rovers before trying to cross these patches and let 
the passengers out of the backs so that if the skill of the driver 
failed he could plummet down the steep slope alone. But as 
they were not that sure that the vehicles would stop to allow 
them to get out, the terrorists struggled frantically whenever 
a bad spot came in sight. It was a lively ride. 

Further across the Moorlands, and nearer the forest, were 
three elephant skulls, all lying within a few feet of one another. 
The animals may have been killed by the bombing or even by 
Kimathi with his elephant gun in the earlier days of the emer- 
gency. But whatever the cause of their deaths, they served as 
a vital landmark, for if a Land Rover went more than a few 
hundred yards past them, it could be seen by anyone in the 
"Kimathi area" far down below. This was our off-loading point. 

Before we finally stopped that day, I vowed, as I had vowed 


many times before, that when I was an old man I would return 
to the Aberdares and sit up there on the Moorlands and dream 
of the days gone by of our operations, of the beauty and mag- 
nificence of this part of the world, which is, as yet, untouched 
by civilisation. And I hoped that when that time came, the 
skeletons of the dead and the scars of war would have disap- 
peared and only the beauty of this wonderful land would re- 

When the teams had got out; and the vehicles had been 
tucked away behind the thickest bushes, we set off on foot 
down the eastern slope of the mountain. When we reached 
the thick bamboo, all but one of the teams branched off to 
their destinations, the last we held back in reserve. They went 
in four separate groups. One was to wind its way down to the 
Kinaini River and ambush two mugumo trees where we thought 
Kimathi might soon be going to pray; another, guided by one 
of the most recently captured members of the gang, was to 
visit the hideout where Kimathi had last been seen in case he 
had left any tracks; the third was to search the Mathakwa-ini 
area of forest for game traps, for this was where he was most 
likely to be hunting; and the last was to travel right down the 
mountain, a journey of nearly twenty-six miles, until they 
reached the edge of the forest bordering the Nyeri Native Re- 
serve where they were to search for the tracks of foraging par- 
ties. Because of the grave shortage of food in the gang, we 
felt that Kimathi might have taken the unusual course of send- 
ing some of his men into the Kikuyu reserve to steal food and 
we might pick up their tracks along the fringe of the forest. 

During the first two days of the operation we made no con- 
tactsand one of our terrorists was badly injured by a rhino. 
At the mugumo tree near the Kinaini River, there were some 
fairly recent tracks which showed that Kimathi was still pray- 
ing, but there was no honey beneath the trees. For once his 
belly had come before his god, and he had eaten the honey 
rather than spill it as an offering to Ngai. The hideout was 
empty, apart from a few scattered pieces of boiled buckskin 


which had obviously proved too tough to eat and there were 
no clear tracks worth following. In the Mathakwa-ini area, the 
third group found several places where buck traps had been 
laid, and then lifted. It was clear that he had been trapping 
there but he had moved on when he found that more of his 
men had been captured. The fourth group found the tracks of 
two men and followed them in high hopes, but when these 
circled back to the reserve after passing some old, empty honey 
hives, it was clear that they belonged to Kikuyu living in the 
reserve and not to Mau Mau. These Kikuyu had probably 
wanted the honey for marital negotiations, possibly to appease 
some irate father who was being offered too small a dowry 
for his daughter. If that were so, their need was indeed great, 
but they were treading on dangerous ground. 

On the seventeenth of September our luck changed. Beside 
a small, muddy pool near Ruhuru-ini our men spotted the toe 
marks of a single terrorist, who had drawn water the day be- 
fore, and all approaches to the pool were ambushed in the hope 
that he would return. As the ambushers lay there, troop after 
troop of baboons came down to water. Then, round about two 
o'clock in the afternoon, a lone terrorist was seen approaching 
the pool, where several baboons were still drinking. The ani- 
mals saw him and snarled and barked, but refused to give way. 
For several minutes the terrorist, who might easily have passed 
for a baboon himself with his long hair and dirty brown skin 
coat, threw stones and sticks at the animals to try to frighten 
them away, but each time he attacked two or three of the larger 
baboons rushed at him and chased him back into the forest. 
This, it seemed, was a feud between equals, where each party 
was claiming his right and was fighting for it, where, unless 
one gave way, there would be a fight to the finish. After the 
ambushers had watched the conflict for some time, they crept 
up behind the terrorist He was concentrating so hard on his 
argument with the baboons that he did not notice them until 
the very last moment For some time the baboons did not see 
our men either, then the terrorist suddenly sensed danger and 


on looking round, saw our men crawling up, but it was too late 
for our target. 

That same day the tracks of three men were picked up by 
another of our groups not far from Wuthering Heights, at least 
thirty miles to the northwest, and thanks to Gacheru and his 
outstanding tracking ability, these were followed to a letter 
box in the Mwathe sector. As our men arrived, they caught a 
glimpse of the three terrorists leaving it. Unfortunately our men 
were also seen, and in a split second the Mau Mau had darted 
away. Fanning out into a long line, the teams sped after them. 
After running three or four hundred yards, they saw the terror- 
ists on the opposite side of a valley climbing up the steep slope. 
Some of our men raced on after them, but others stood on the 
high ground and shouted across the valley to some imaginary 
colleagues: "Stay where you are. They are going straight for 
you." This bluff worked. Two of the terrorists must have been 
so busy running that they did not hear the shouting, but the 
third stopped suddenly, looked up at the top of the hill for a 
few seconds, then turned right and charged down into the val- 
ley again. Here he collided with our men who dived at him. 
For a few moments he fought like a cat. He had been grabbed 
by five or six of our men, most of whom were cut with his simi 
or were severely bitten on their hands and he only gave up 
after someone hit him hard on the head with a Patchett maga- 
zine. Mbaka is the Kikuyu word for cat and this, appropriately, 
was his name. 

It turned out that he and three others, one of whom was the 
unfortunate wretch being chevied by the baboons, had been 
sent off by Kimathi three days before to look for new trapping 
wires which the gang needed badly. They had gone to examine 
the wreckage of an aircraft east of the National Park Track 
where they hoped they would be able to remove some of the 
electrical wiring. They got to the scene of the crash without 
mishap, but when they examined the crumbling mass of metal 
from a safe distance, they thought they saw a booby-trap and 
left the scene hurriedly. 


They had not gone far, however, before they were charged 
by a rhino with calf in that same terrible part of the Tree Tops 
Salient which we had all come to dread, and all four terrorists 
ran in different directions. It was quite some time before the 
angry rhino moved on and Mbaka could emerge from his hiding 
place to rally his men, but he could only find two of them. For 
two hours Mbaka searched for the missing terrorist unsuccess- 
fully, before deciding that he must have gone back to rejoin 
Kimathi at the hideout, so they headed for the hideout them- 

To their intense surprise, they arrived to find the hideout 
deserted. Not only was the missing terrorist not there, but Ki- 
mathi and the rest of the gang were not there either. Further- 
more, the place had obviously been abandoned for good. That 
night Mbaka and his two companions lay in the hideout won- 
dering how they could find Kimathi again, and early the next 
morning they began to look for him. Day and night they 
searched. Without food and without trapping wires, they began 
to think they might die of hunger unless they could make con- 
tact with Kimathi, but they found no trace of him. They were 
still searching when our men saw them at the letter box. They 
had been all the way to Wuthering Heights and back, a journey 
of nearly seventy miles over rough country. 

The story told by the lone terrorist captured at the pool con- 
firmed all that Mbaka told us. Like the others, he had run when 
the rhino charged and then returned to look for his companions 
when the animal had moved away. Somehow, they had missed 
each other. That night he slept in a tree and the following day 
set off for the hideout alone. Everyone had gone. By this time 
even Mbaka had come and gone. 

Lonely and hungry, he decided to go on looking for Mbaka 
but not for Kimathi definitely not Kimathi. He had been alone. 
There was no one to corroborate his story, and the unbelieving 
Kimathi would think he had betrayed the others to the enemy 
and was now coming back in the hope of betraying everyone 
else. For that he knew he would be strangled and pushed down 


an antbear hole. Even if Mbaka had got back to Kimathi and 
supported his story about the rhino, who could say that since 
that time he had not turned traitor and passed information to 
the security forces? The odds were against him and he knew 
he had to avoid Kimathi at all costs. So he drank where the 
baboons drank, in a filthy, muddy, stagnant pool fouled by ba- 
boon excreta and urine, for that was one place his leader was 
unlikely to go to. 

With two more of his gang accounted for, Kimathi was now 
left with only six followers. There was his treasured woman, 
Wanjiru; there was his two favourites, the two joints of his 
finger, Gitahi and Maragua; and there were three others for 
whom he had no special affection, Ngunyi, Kondia, and 7 Kar. 

Mbaka told us that in his kst week with Kimathi, he had 
twice heard his leader speak of suicide, of going away to some 
remote part of the mountain with Wanjiru where he would 
first shoot her and then shoot himself. He had told his men 
that his body would not be found by his enemies, as it would 
be a sin "against the bones of his grandmother" if he were taken 
out of the forest When he had last talked of death, he had 
called for his goat-skin satchel and from it he had removed 
all his documents. There were twenty or thirty old letters from 
other terrorist leaders as well as his small diary, the diary in 
which the names of all those to be executed were recorded. Sit- 
ting before a fire, he had read the letters to those around him. 
Only Wanjiru, being a woman, had to sit aside, for she was 
forbidden to hear such things. As he read each letter, he threw 
it into the flames and watched it roll up, blacken, and then 
catch fire. When all this had been done, he picked up his copy 
of Napoleons Book of Charms. This had been torn by a bullet 
during the battle with Gacheru's team when they captured 
Karau and his partner near the bomb crater. Putting the charm 
book on his lap, he flicked the pages over, then, with his last 
stub pencil, he worked out what the future held for him. His 
men looked on in silence, anxious to hear the result, for his 
fate was their fate, but when he had finished he told them 


nothing. He ripped the pages from the book one by one and 
threw them onto the fire like the letters. Now they knew they 
were near the bottom of the downward slope. 

Mbaka also told us about a last sacrifice Kimathi intended to 
stage near the top of Mount Kanangop, about eighty miles to 
the south. As he could not get a live goat for the ceremony, he 
had decided to use a live buck, one of those caught in his traps. 
He proposed to place earth in the eyes of the animal and then 
sew up its eye lids with forest thorns and twine to show that 
the land was dear to him; then he intended to slit the animal's 
ear so that its blood would pour over the rocks as an offering 
to Ngai; finally, before the animal was dead, he planned to bury 
it with its head pointing upwards to signify "the rising of his 

When all arrangements had been completed for the cere- 
mony, he called his men round him and questioned them about 
the safest route to Mount Kanangop, but none could advise him. 
They all knew, however, that it would be dangerous to move 
before the partridges gave them the "all clear." That same eve- 
ning, therefore, Kimathi and the reinnants of his gang went 
through the forest to see how the birds would behave. They 
came upon two flocks, but in each case, instead of scurrying 
along the ground, the birds took to the air. After this bad omen 
the expedition was cancelled and all-night prayers were held 
thanking Ngai for fhjg warning. 



Iri kuhuma ndiri muti itangigwaterera. 

There is no tree to which a panting man would not cling. 

WHEN GATI AND HUNGU came to us nine months before, we 
did not really think that every Mau Mau gang leader in the 
Aberdares would fall before Dedan Kimathi was captured. 
Thurura, who had long before predicted that Kimathi would 
be the last surviving terrorist on the mountain, was depressingly 

By the middle of September, there were only two Mau Mau 
leaders left in the forest, Dedan Kimathi and Kimani Kimarua. 
All the others, with the single exception of Stanley Mathenge 
who had left the mountain long before, had been eliminated 
by their former followers who were now working with us. Kahiu 
Itina had surrendered quietly after the fantastic dream of his 
witch doctor, Kingori; Ndungu Gicheru was seized after the 
brutal ham-stringing of the cattle; Kimbo, the singer and cattle 
thief, had been swept up with all his gangsters and sentenced 
to death for murder; Mururu and Kariuki Kagera, who had 
tormented the farmers in the Kanangop, had fallen; Chege had 
taken us on the abortive operation to Rurimeria; Abdalla, Jer- 
iko, Wambarabia, and Karau, from Kimathf s gang had fallen 

like skittles to the cunning of their one-time companions; Mur- 
aya and Kiiru had been ambushed in the upper Fort Hall for- 
ests; Njackwema from the far north had been eliminated and 
others too had gone the same way. Only Kimathi and Kimani 
Kimarua remained. But on the twentieth of that month of Sep- 
tember, Kimani Kimarua was killed in a fight with one of our 
teams, and Kimathi was left as the only important terrorist at 
large in an area where, three years before, nearly twelve thou- 
sand Mau Mau and some two hundred major and minor leaders 
had operated. 

Kimani had never been closely associated with Kimathi, nor 
did his gang ever trespass in the Kimathi area. Some of his 
men had once brushed with Kfmatbfs gang on the Moorlands, 
and one had been run to ground and killed. Before that, in 
June 1955, Kimani had himself been a prisoner of Kimathi, 
along with several other Mau Mau leaders, including Stanley 
Mathenge, Njau Kiore, Kiiru, and Kahinga Wachanga, all of 
whom Kimathi seized for taking part in surrender talks with 
government officers against his wishes. For this offence they 
had been sentenced to death, bound hand and foot, and placed 
under guard in a small bamboo hut to await execution at dawn. 
But during the night a woman terrorist, who was a friend of 
Stanley Mathenge, entered the hut to take water to the prison- 
ers and cut their bonds. They rushed out, overpowered the 
guards, seized their weapons, and disappeared into the dark- 

After these two clashes Kimani had no wish to set eyes on 
Kimathi again, so he went far south into the deep gorge of the 
Mathioya River. Yet in some ways, these two were not unalike. 
Kimani had gone into the forest with two brothers; so had Ki- 
mathi. Kimani had led his brothers a miserable life in the jungle; 
so had Kimathi. But unlike Kimathi, Kimani had an unfaithful 
brother. He was called Ngai, after the Kikuyu god, and he was 
a member of our force. 

Since early childhood Ngai had been beaten and bullied and 
he led a very hard life in tibe forest Kimani used to whip him 


without reason in front of other members of the gang, and he 
was always ordered to go on the most dangerous expeditions. 
Ngai had not forgotten this, and when he was captured by one 
of our teams early in September he was only too anxious to 
hunt for his brother, who was trapping near the headwaters 
of the Mathioya River at the time. While operations against Ki- 
mathi went on in the north, Ngai searched for his brother in the 

A few days after Ngai's team, which was led by a most effi- 
cient but painfully ugly team leader named Kubwa, had ar- 
rived at the upper reaches of the Mathioya River, they came 
upon a place in the forest where a branch of some large-leafed 
plant had been cut and left on an animal path. Further down 
the path they found a similar branch and then another and 
another. Our men followed on and by nightfall had reached the 
hideout where Kimani and two others were resting. 

Kimani was sleeping between his two followers, who were 
tied round the ankles with difficulty, but when the rope touched 
Kimanfs feet, he sprang from the ground, grabbed Kubwa's 
Patchett by the muzzle and almost wrenched it from his hands. 
The tug of war did not last long. Kubwa squeezed the trigger, 
and a stream of bullets ripped Kimanfs chest at point-blank 

Ngai was overjoyed when he saw his brother fall. He trotted 
over to the body and happily ruffled through his dead brother's 
clothes for any valuables he could find. Mau Mau had taught 
him, like all others who had succumbed to its doctrine, to have 
no feelings for kith and kin. He pocketed Kimanfs torn and 
tattered notebook, a little bottle containing antbear fat, which 
was thought to be a cure for rheumatism, and a small skin 
wallet which had nothing in it. Then he stripped all the blood- 
stained garments from his brother's body and slipped them over 
his own. 

The ease with which the team had been able to discover the 
hideout made Kubwa ask his two prisoners why they had left 
the branches along the path. He was told that while a fourth 


member of the gang had been away setting a game snare, two 
rifle shots had been heard in the direction of the Gikira Biver 
and Kimani had decided to move immediately to a new hide- 
out The trail of branches had been left behind so that the trap- 
per would be able to find the new hideout. As Kubwa told 
them: "Had I been born as stupid as you I would have commit- 
ted suicide long agor 

That night, the twentieth of September, the team remained 
in the hideout with their two prisoners and the dead body of 
Kimani, on the off-chance that the trapper had not heard the 
firing and would return. That is exactly what he did. He walked 
unsuspectingly into the ambush just before nine o'clock in the 

Now that Dedan Kimathi was the only terrorist of impor- 
tance on the whole mountain, we decided to ignore the few 
leaderless oddments scattered here and there and use every 
man we had in the main hunt. 

In the Mwathe and the Tree Tops Salient Kimathi had three 
operative letter boxes, and by the end of September we knew 
them all. The first was a hollow beneath the roots of a large 
tree low down the Salient, close to the famous Tree Tops game 
lookout. The second was about six miles further up the moun- 
tain, due west, between the Muringato and Itha rivers, in a 
derelict beehive that had been hanging on a tree for some 
twenty years. The third was a cavity in a rock some seven miles 
northwest of this beehive, in the Mwathe area, close to that 
part of the forest where we had once staged our deception 
operation. The last of these would probably not be used again, 
as some of our collaborators knew it well, but the others were 
almost certain to be used if the gang was split up and wished 
to communicate with one another. 

Kimathi also had two thitoo, or food stores, both deep in the 
forest One was Juma Abdalla's cave beside the Muringato 
Kiver, but Kimathi knew that it was now empty. The second, 
however, was newly-dug under a large fig tree in the Ruhotie 
valley. It had been found and left intact by one of our teams 


during the last days of the previous operation. We knew that 
no one would construct a food store in the forest unless there 
was food to be stored in it. We knew that Kimathi had not 
obtained food from outside the forest, for we would have found 
his tracks along the forest edge, so we presumed that his traps 
were now paying dividends and that he was, at long last, get- 
ting so much meat that he was able to dry some for storage. 
Where, then, were his traps? 

The area north of the Ruhotie valley was too close to the 
fanning country of Mweiga; the area to the west of this con- 
tained many giant forest hog and was therefore equally un- 
suitable; the land to the east towards Nyeri and the Polo Ground 
was a poor trapping area as the forest was sparse and buck 
wandered about willy-nilly instead of keeping to set paths. But 
the area to the south of the Ruhotie valley was excellent for 
trapping at this time of year and it was, we noted, close to his 
new store. That was where we would look. 

Then there were his prayer trees. By discounting those 
known to the terrorists captured from his gang, we were able 
to eliminate all but nine. Those who knew him well were posi- 
tive that these nine were the only ones he would visit again. 
All the others we could safely forget about. 

This analysis gave us fourteen key points where we would 
look for Kimathi: two letter boxes, two food stores, nine prayer 
trees, and a trapping area. Our hunting ground was narrowed 
down to fifty square miles of forest Never before had we pos- 
sessed such full and exact information on which to base an oper- 
ation and never before had we been blessed with such an ex- 
pert body of hunters to carry out the task. We were sure that 
the day of Kimathfs downfall was near. Nobody said very 
much, but everyone was confident. 

On the last day of September, our whole force was withdrawn 
from the forest to prepare for a final, major effort to begin on 
the seventh of October. This operation was given the expres- 
sive code name "Hot Scrum/' Hour after hour details of 
the plan were discussed and re-discussed. Day after day we 


glanced up anxiously at the sky for signs of a change of weather. 
The rains were due again and it was imperative that we should 
establish ourselves beside the fourteen key points before they 
broke. We knew that if we moved through the forest in force 
after they had started, our tracks would be seen, and Kimathi 
would know that we had found his key points. 

On the third of October there was an ominous cluster of dark 
clouds over Mount Kenya, but by the late evening the sky was 
clear again. Then on the fourth of October clouds gathered in 
the north, where some light rain fell, but the Aberdares were 
spared. Twice we telephoned the Meteorological Department 
and received a very technical and complicated account of pres- 
sure belts and other phenomena but we had no precise answer 
to the question we were interested in when was it going to 
rain? On the fifth there was a low mist throughout most parts 
of the Central Province and we breathed a sigh of relief be- 
cause in East Africa the rains are invariably preceded by ex- 
tremely hot, sunny days. 

In operations of this size and nature success is dependent on 
a great many factors, over many of which there is little or no 
control. The essence, however, consists of keeping the area com- 
pletely quiet until the operation starts. Activities which would 
normally have little or no bearing on the conduct of ordinary 
operations, such as a plane circling over the area, a shot fired 
on the forest edge, Africans cutting firewood, a fish warden 
visiting a trout stream, a vehicle bumping up one of the forest 
tracks, or even torches being flashed towards the forest might 
have a disastrous effect on the outcome of these operations. 
Every abnormal sound or incident could alter Kimathf s plans, 
and every normal sound or happening could be misconstrued 
and made to appear abnormal. You could not be too meticulous 
about the precautions you took to keep the area quiet 

Under these circumstances almost as much work had to go 
into pre-operational preparations as was put into the operation 
itself. Spotters had to watch the forest edge to check trespass- 
ers, small planes had to be diverted, troops and police had to 


be moved away, local Africans had to be warned, and farmers, 
forest scouts, game scouts, and fish wardens had to be asked 
not to go near the forest fringe. When all this had been done, 
the planning of the operation could go forward. 

By the night of the seventh of October all preparations had 
been completed; the weather was still fine, and we were ready 
to move. A long convoy of vehicles, all covered with tarpaulins 
to keep the terrorists hidden, pulled out of Mayfield and set 
course for the Aberdares, which we reached after dawn so that 
the lights of the vehicles would not be seen from the forest 

This time two main base camps were set up, the first deep 
in the forest on the TRr-m^mi River and the second high up on 
the edge of the Moorlands in an area called TCarandi ka gitara- 
ini." As the name was something of a tongue-twister for the 
wireless operators, we renamed it "Frost Camp" after an early 
visit when Mac and I spent several minutes looking for a spare 
wheel which we had tossed out of the back of a Land Rover 
when we went to sleep and which had been completely hidden 
beneath a mattress of frost when we began to look for it the 
following morning. 

Kinaini Camp was situated in an area where there were 
probably more hyrax than in any other part of the Aberdares. 
The noise they made at night was so great that we found it dif- 
ficult to sleep, but it had the advantage of drowning the normal 
noise and clatter of camp life. We could not resist catching one 
of these lovely, soft-skinned, ferocious little creatures, and it 
stayed with us as a mascot in a little pen beside the camp fire 
throughout the operation. 

One of the snags about Kinaini was the fact that it was sur- 
rounded by thickly forested hills which badly interfered with 
wireless transmission. This compelled us to erect a diapole sev- 
eral hundred yards away at the top of one of these hills, and 
we had to climb up there every time there was a message to 
be passed. Doing this at night without torches was not a popu- 
lar occupation. 


When the camp was first set up, the river on which we de- 
pended for water was a muddy brown and the mixture of leaves, 
broken twigs, and branches made the water almost undrink- 
able. During the rains that sort of thing was to be expected, 
but in the dry season the culprits could only be elephants. Luck- 
ily the herds moved on, and our water supply improved before 
we became too desperate. 

By the following evening, October the eighth, most of the 
sorting out at the camp had been done and we were as comforta- 
ble as possible. At Kinaini Camp, the lower base, the accent 
was on protection against big game, particularly rhino who are 
a particular menace at night when camp fires were burning. All 
bivouacs were erected beside trees which could be climbed 
easily. The fires were sited so that they were ringed with ve- 
hicles. Petrol was spilt on nearby paths used by big game com- 
ing down to the river to drink. At Frost Camp the emphasis 
was on keeping warm. All the bivouacs were pitched where the 
ground was not too damp. Firewood was collected lower down 
the mountain in the bamboo belt and stacked in large bundles 
at the base, for as soon as the rains broke the tracks would 
become impassable and no more could be fetched. But of even 
greater importance than firewood were the Hexamine cookers 
and their solid fuel tablets which were stored in large quanti- 
ties. The inventor of these cookers was praised from the day 
we arrived at Frost Camp until the day we left* When the 
firewood was wet and it was pouring with rain, these cookers 
were placed in the backs of Land Rovers where everyone hud- 
dled in search of warmth. 

From these two camps our force set out early on the morn- 
ing of the ninth of October. There was a team for each of the 
nine prayer trees, one for each of the two letter boxes, one 
for each of the food stores, and four to search the trapping 
area south of the Ruhotie valley. In addition another five teams 
were used for odd tasks such as ambushing known gang routes 
and watching various springs where it was thought Kimathi 
might be drawing water. One reserve party, consisting of two 


smaller teams, was held back at the camps, rationed and armed 
and ready to move off at a minute's notice. 

This operation would make or break us. We knew that if we 
failed to account for Kimathi this time, he would disappear 
for many months, probably for years, probably for ever. Our 
span of life, operationally speaking, was about two weeks. After 
that the region would be so full of our tracks that Kimathi 
would undoubtedly abandon it for good, knowing that a major 
force had been thrust against him and that his favourite haunts 
had also become our favourite haunts. Once he realised this, 
once he realised we knew his fourteen key points, he would 
certainly vanish. He might cross through the settled areas and 
go into the vast forests of Mount Kenya; he might move into 
fiie sparsely inhabited regions of the Uaso Nyiro or go further 
into the Northern Frontier district, which he knew well; he 
might travel further and cross into Tanganyika or Ethiopia. He 
might even commit suicide and leave us hunting him for months 
after his death. He had talked about all these things, as I knew 
only too well 

By the night of the ninth, all our teams had reached their 
destinations. Those at the letter boxes found from a study of 
tracks that two terrorists had visited the trees three or four days 
before. They had left behind withering branches, a sign, we 
believed, that they had picked up letters which had been left 
for them. This meant that Mbaka's two companions, who had 
disappeared over the crest of the hill during the last operation, 
had now rejoined Kimathi. There was good news from one of 
the teams at the food stores. They arrived to find that the new 
store contained a few pounds of dried buck meat which sug- 
gested that the process of building up a reserve supply of food 
had begun and should continue. Those teams moving into the 
trapping area and to the prayer trees arrived without mishap 
but found nothing of special interest to tell us. 

This time we did not intend to lie up close beside the key 
points. In the first place, it was obvious that Kimathi would 
not go to any of them, be they his stores, his prayer trees, his 


letter boxes, or his traps, unless he had sent his men ahead to 
see that all was safe. As long as he had any followers, he would 
expose them before he exposed himself. This meant that little 
good would come of ambushing the key points and capturing 
anyone who came along. Our plan this time was to hide a short 
distance from the key points which would be visited by two 
men every few hours to find out if anyone had been to them. 
If someone had, the team would be called up and the fresh 
tracks of the visitors would be followed until they led to Ki- 
mathi. In effect, we were going to rely on tracking. 

Secondly, the time factor was important. Our men could lie 
in ambush points without moving for three or four days, but 
after that they would become restless, bored, and less careful 
about hiding. This meant that if Kimathfs gangsters did not 
visit any of the key points until the fifth or seventh or tenth 
day, there was every likelihood of our teams being seen and 
our operation compromised. We could not afford to run that 

The days passed all too quickly without further develop- 
ments, and with each day my anxiety mounted. All the time the 
forest was being plastered more and more with our tracks. We 
began to wonder whether the teams looking for traps south of 
the Ruhotie valley had been seen as they combed the forests; 
we wondered whether other teams had been spotted at the 
time of the move in. Why and where was Kimathi lying low? 

On the fourth day, the thirteenth of October, runners were 
sent out to contact all the teams except those searching for 
traps, with whom we could not get into touch. We asked if 
Kimathi could have seen them or their tracks, but in each case 
they said that this could not have been so. Nevertheless, every 
hour produced more tracks and more evidence of our presence 
in the forest. Before we had prayed for the rains to hold off, 
now we prayed that the rains would come to obliterate every 
mark that we had made and give us a fresh start The rain 
birds, with their perpetual, incessant whistle, were heard all 


over the forest but that was little consolation as they had been 
whistling for several days. 

Each morning the European and African staff left the camps 
and visited rendezvous points deep in the forest where reports 
were sent by the teams, but day after day the results were 
negative. As a distraction, we set a number of partridge traps 
near our two base-camps. When a bird was caught, the other 
camp would be raised on the wireless and proudly informed 
of the achievement. Once when Busani at Kinaini was hauled 
out of bed to be told by Gethieya at Frost Camp that his score 
had gone up by one, Busani retorted: "That's nothing. Here we 
have just caught twelve and given them Patchetts and sent 
them back into the forest to hunt for Kimathi!" A camp with- 
out Busani was really no camp at all. This huge, strapping 
Mkamba, over six feet tall and weighing almost fourteen stone, 
a native of the hot country of Machakos, always had a smile 
on his face. He did not, however, have any special liking for 
climbing the steep slopes of the Aberdares. We all sympathised 
with him for having so much weight to drag along, but we could 
never look back and watch him toiling up the hills without 
bursting into laughter and this invariably made him collapse on 
the ground, laughing heartily, too. Yet, although he was no 
mountaineer, his physical strength was colossal. With his mas- 
sive shoulders and arms he could lift the back of a Land Rover 
dear off the ground while a wheel was changed, a feat which 
gained him the nickname kereni, or crane, among the terrorists. 

As always, we had our moments with game. One day we saw 
a huge bull elephant feeding itself in a valley beside Kinaini 
Camp. Accompanied by one of our terrorists, Mac and I went 
down to have a look at it. We reached a spot from where we 
had an excellent view of this colossal beast, but that was by no 
means near enough for our companion who dared us to accom- 
pany him closer. We unwisely accepted the challenge and on 
we went Within a few minutes we entered an extremely thick 
belt of muondwe scrub where none of us could see more than 
a yard or two ahead. Suddenly, we were horrified to see the 

"HOT SCRUM" 221 

bull only a few feet in front of us, facing in our direction with its 
trunk upraised. With a grunt, the terrorist shot past us and went 
crashing through the undergrowth. Mac and I followed suit. We 
dashed out of the muondwe belt and up the side of the valley 
where we paused, breathless, to glance back. Much to our relief 
and surprise, the elephant was still standing exactly where we 
had left him. With arms, legs, and clothes all torn and scratched, 
we trudged back to camp. For two nights I dreamt about ele- 

Bill Eastbrook had a worse experience. He met two large 
buffalo on a track where, on the one side, there was a vertical 
drop of some thirty feet and, on the other, a steep cliff. Un- 
luckily, the animals decided against running down the track 
away from him. Instead they thundered up towards him, and 
he had the hair-raising experience of standing there with noth- 
ing larger than a revolver in his hand, as they bolted past him, 
one on either side. If he had run he would almost certainly 
have been killed. I think this was the narrowest shave any of 
the staff personnel experienced during the operation, for to be 
sandwiched between two galloping buffalo is an experience 
never to be forgotten. 

Soon after this, Mac was driving his Land Rover along Wan- 
derer s Track towards Frost Camp, quite unaware of danger, 
when a charging rhino rammed the back of his vehicle. He 
had heard a crash behind him and felt the back of the vehicle 
jump up. On looking round, he was shocked to see the rhino 
close on his tail. Accelerating furiously, he dashed into the 
camp, where the terrorists claimed that the rhino would not 
have charged him had it not seen his moustache and mistaken 
it for the horns of a buffalo! 

And so the first few days passed. I carried my lucky Arab- 
silver bracelet, still tied to a handkerchief, from camp to camp, 
and we all hoped it would bring us luck in the days to come. 



Mageria nimo mahota. 

Where there is a will there is a way. 

WE "WERE BEGINNING to wonder whether the fourteen key points 
really were going to provide us with a lead to Kimathi when, 
on the afternoon of the fifteenth of October, events took a sharp 
turn for the better. Round about midday, a single terrorist from 
Kimathf s gang came to the letter box between the Muringato 
and Itha rivers and put a letter in the old beehive. An hour 
later the team covering this point, on one of their routine visits, 
saw his tracks beneath the tree and found the letter in the hive. 
It was in Kimathi's own handwriting and read: 

I am still where you left me and you must come back when 
the store is full. 

It was quite clear that some of Kimathis gangsters were away 
collecting food for storage. It was also clear that if we could 
find any of them, they would know exactly where we could 
find him. At the time it also seemed reasonably sure that Ki- 
mathi was somewhere nearby. Having put the letter back in 
the hive, two men were left in ambush while the rest of the 
team set off to follow up the lone terrorist's tracks. They even- 


tually arrived at Frost Camp many days later after travelling 
nearly forty miles through the forest on a fake trail. Somehow 
they had lost the tracks of Kimathfs man and got onto the tracks 
of another individual. These things happen even with the best 

Other developments were soon reported. In the area south 
of the Ruhotie valley, one of the trap-searching teams found 
the tracks of two other terrorists. These zigzagged about all 
over the place and even doubled back on their original course. 
Only terrorists in search of suitable places to lay game traps 
would keep changing direction like this, yet that explanation 
did not seem to fit this case. Why should they twice return to 
ground they had already inspected? By dusk the team had not 
solved this problem and on the following morning, the sixteenth 
of October, they split up into pairs to sweep through the forest. 

Half a mile south of the Ruhotie River, there is a swamp 
thicldy covered with water-plants and tall ithanji reeds. While 
two of our men were edging their way through it, they thought 
they heard a rifle being loaded the sound of a bolt being 
snapped forward and closed. Thinking they had run into Ki- 
mathi, both men immediately blazed away into the reeds with 
their weapons. They heard a splash and they saw the tall reeds 
shaking further over to their left Cautiously they advanced. 
But a few steps further on they heard something bubbling in 
the water. They looked down and saw Gitahi, Kimathi's most 
trusted veteran, who had been shot in the back and was now 
lying half submerged in the water. They dragged him out and 
questioned him. There had been three terrorists in the reeds, 
7 Kar, Ngunyi, and himself. They had left Kimathi, Wanjiru, 
and Maragua three days before, many miles up the mountains 
near Mihuro in the very thick bamboo while they had come 
down to trap buck and store meat in the newly made food 

Gitahi was immediately talkative, probably because he was 
half drowned, and agreed to lead our men back to Kimathi's 
hiding place. No effort was made to search for his two com- 


panions. They would probably make for the beehive letter box 
where two of our men were already waiting. If they did so, 
all would be well, for they would be caught there, but if they 
rushed straight back to Kimathi and reached him before we 
did, our position would be most serious. Gitahi knew every one 
of the fourteen key points upon which our operation was based, 
and Kimathi might easily see to it that none of his men visited 
any of them again when he heard of Gitahi's capture. 

It was a race against time. Fortunately our two terrorists were 
sufficiently intelligent to realise this, so half carrying, half drag- 
ging their wounded prisoner, they made off as fast as they could 
for Kinaini base camp which they reached at five past four that 
afternoon. Only three hours were left before nightfall. A strong 
team was quickly prepared, and a bush stretcher was made to 
carry Gitahi; the assault had to be planned and the siting of 
supporting teams had to be decided. While Gitahi's wound was 
being dressed, runners were sent hurrying off to contact all the 
teams by the letter boxes, the food stores, and prayer trees to 
tell them to move in beside their key points and ambush them. 
Other runners were sent to recall those teams ambushing forest 
paths and water points well out of range of Kimathi's present 
position. A third group went off to recall the teams looking for 
game traps south of the Ruhotie valley. 

At four o'clock there were only sixteen terrorists available at 
Frost Camp and Kinaini. Once the assault team had been 
picked and the runners sent off, only three men were left. 

The task allotted to the runners that crucial evening was par- 
ticularly dangerous. Not only did they run a grave risk of being 
mistaken for hostile terrorists by the teams, whom they would 
reach long after dark, but they faced a tremendous threat from 
wild game. It was bad enough to go through the Tree Tops 
Salient in the daytime, but to go through it at night, and alone, 
must have been hair-raising. However bad their background, 
however shady their characters, we raised our hats to these 

As far as it is humanly possible to know a forest weD, we 


knew the area where Kimathi had been reported. The bamboo 
there was so thick and interwoven that a noiseless approach 
was practically impossible. That was probably the reason he 
had chosen to stay there. It was a place where his enemies 
could not creep up on him without being heard. He would prob- 
ably hear us a hundred yards away and run for it, but then he 
too would make a noise a noise which we could follow. Only 
the fastest and most agile of our available men were chosen for 
the assault team. 

We left only one man in Frost Camp and one in TTinaim, 
all the others, including the sick, were mustered and armed. 
Within half an hour of Gitahfs arrival our transport was grind- 
ing up the mountain with accelerators hard down on the floor 
boards. At the ninety-four-hundred-mark, the main assault 
team, led by the ever-faithful Gati, dropped off and disap- 
peared into the forest, with Gitahi bouncing up and down on 
a stretcher, A little further on, we sent off three two-man teams 
to ambush three fords that Kimathi might use. The time was 
exactly 6.16 P.M. when the last team took up its position, 
Twenty-six miles had been covered since the vehicles left Ki- 
naini camp, twenty-six miles up a rough, mountainous track in 
one hour and ten minutes. 

That night was certainly one to remember. Laurie Pearse and 
Jim Stephen, lying in ambush at one of Kimathfs favourite 
crossing points, were almost trampled by a rhino which came 
up on them so.quickly and silently in the darkness that they first 
saw its massive black form a few yards away. Gethieya and a 
terrorist, ambushing at another crossing, were put to flight by 
a large, aggressive beast which they could not identify. Oppo- 
site Ruhuru-ini hill, a team of two terrorists became entangled 
in a pack of African wild dogs. The dogs were running down a 
bushbuck which ran between our ambushers and brought the 
pack down on top of them. For several minutes there was a 
great deal of growling and snarling, but fortunately nothing 
worse happened. An otter hit the heel of one of the men on 
the Chania River ford and the single terrorist left on guard at 


Kinaini, feeling somewhat hungry, ate a tin of Simonize car 
polish thinking it was butter. 

Meanwhile our assault team had problems of its own. After 
leaving the vehicles, Gatf s team had only carried Gitahi on the 
stretcher a short way before they found they could not get it 
through the tangled mass of bamboo, so they threw it away 
and lifted Gitahi on their shoulders. But Gitahi soon found that 
this was too uncomfortable and, despite his wound, decided to 
walk, which, incredibly, he did. 

Just before darkness fell they got within one hundred and 
fifty yards of Kimathf s hideout There they halted while Gitahi 
stretched out his arm and pointed out its rough position to them. 
They could not see the hideout itself, but they could make out 
the clump of bamboo beside it quite easily and that was a good 
enough pin point Leaving Gitahi behind, the team split up. 
After turning towards Mount Kenya and praying for a few sec- 
onds, they rushed the hideout from three sides. But it was 
empty. The care with which Kimathi had covered up all his 
tracks, the care with which he had buried the ashes of the fire, 
the care with which he had ruffled the grass where he lay, was 
proof that he had not left in a hurry. He had moved house. 
The team called up Gitahi, and all sat down in the hideout to 
discuss their next move. Had Kimathi dreamt again? One thing 
was certain, his departure had not been inspired by Ngunyi or 
7 Kar, for then he would have leapt away without making such 
elaborate arrangements. In any case, the hideout had been 
abandoned long before the action in the camp. 

Huddled together round Gitahi, who was shivering from cold 
and shock, the team reviewed the facts. Soon they came to 
the conclusion that they had been rather stupid ever to suppose 
that Kimathi would be there. After all, he would not normally 
stay in a place known to men who were out of his sight for 
fear that they would be captured and guide the security forces 
back to him. That was a risk he would hate to take. The fact 
that he had said in his letter **I am still where you left me" did 
not necessarily mean that he was still in the same hideout. He 


would say this in any case to let his absent followers know that 
all was well. 

In our team there were four terrorists who had once belonged 
to Kimathi's gang. They now recalled many previous occasions 
when Kimathi had left letters saying he was in a given place 
whereas, in fact, he had been in the vicinity. That was what 
he always meant he was never to be taken too literallyand it 
would be up to his men to search for him. This time they 
thought Kimathi was probably expecting Gitahi, 7 Kar, and 
Ngunyi to look for him anywhere in the bamboo belt within 
two miles of the hideout. 

As there was little more than three quarters of an hour of 
daylight left, it would normally have been preferable to spend 
the night quietly in the hideout and begin a search of the sur- 
rounding forest early in the following morning, but this was not 
a normal occasion. Nobody could tell whether Ngunyi and 7 Kar 
were already searching for Kimathi. The hunt had to continue, 
even by night. 

Leaving three men in the hideout to deal with 7 Kar and 
Ngunyi if they arrived, the rest of the team set off with Gitahi, 
towards the only spring in the area, which was less than half 
a mile away. That was the place the gang had entered before 
Gitahi went down the mountain, and as Kimathi would never 
water at a river the noise would prevent his hearing the ap 
proach of his enemies it was the only place nearby from which 
he could draw water. Within a few minutes they were there 
and began to examine the ground. The sun had already fallen 
behind the mountain and the light was poor, but they were 
able to see that the spring was still in use. They could just see 
6ne set of tracks leading away up a slope and winding on 
through the bamboo. Gitahi was pushed into the lead and the 
hunt began. 

They had not gone more than two hundred yards when Gitahi 
suddenly dropped to the ground. Like a row of skittles, every- 
one behind him fell down and lay still. Gitahi swung his left 
hand slowly round behind him and clawed at the soft earth 


with his fingers as a signal to Gati to creep up beside him. 
"Kabuci Kau [there's the hideout]," he whispered. Gati raised 
his head slightly and peered through the bamboo. There, about 
thirty yards in front of him, was a buckskin coat hanging on a 
branch and three cooking sticks jutting out of the ground below 
it. For several minutes the team lay completely quiet to see if 
they could hear anything moving about, but all was silent. Then 
they crept forward, some going round the side, others round 
the back, until they had surrounded the cooking sticks. Once 
again the hideout was empty. But this time there was a differ- 
ence. Stuck away under a little bush was a heap of newly cut 
thabai, or wild nettle, and an old pot; beside this was a leg 
and the ribs of a buck; near the entrance were two skin bags 
and a tattered army blanket, further over, beside a bed of flat- 
tened grass, were two rusty bully-beef tins Kimathfs cups. 
Looking around more carefully, Gati found two lengths of trap- 
ping wire rolled up neatly on sticks and placed at the foot of 
the "bed." And under the thabai was Kimathi's Kikuyu Bible, 
the only book he had not burnt. Here lay Kimathi's worldly 
wealth, with the sole exception of his revolver and the leopard- 
skin jacket which he wore, a jacket he had taken from his 
brother, Wambararia. 

Our men spread out to wait for Kimathi's return. They were 
confident that at long last his day had come. They waited while 
the elephant, the rhino, the wild dogs, and the otter were terror- 
ising or aggravating our lonely ambushers. They waited while 
the moon rose high. They waited while the partridges began 
to call at dawn. Still there was no sign of Kimathi. 

Far away down the mountain all but one of the runners had 
contacted their teams by this time. From that moment, Ki- 
mathi's letter boxes, his food stores, and his favourite prayer 
trees were closely ambushed. As the night of the sixteenth of 
Octobed faded, we cut Kimathi's life line. 



Kuhonoka ti gutura. 

To pass through danger once is no guarantee for the next time. 

To escape is not to survive. 

WHEN KIMATHI DID NOT RETURN to his hideout by dawn on the 
seventeenth of October, Gatf s team split into two groups. One 
waited at the hideout, the other began a. search of the surround- 
ing forest. By now five other teams that had arrived at Kinaini 
camp shortly after daybreak were being rationed, briefed, and 
brought round through the forest to close in on the Mihuro area. 

Then, to our delight, a heavy shower of rain fell over most 
of the eastern Aberdares. We knew that this would obliterate 
all the tracks we had left in the forest during the previous 
eight days. It would also make it very difficult for Kimathi to 
break away from Mihuro without leaving tracks of his own. 

Soon there was more good news. All three of the buck traps 
laid by Gitahi, 7 Kar, and Ngunyi many days before were 
found and removed by our men. We knew that when this phase 
of operations against Kimathi began his gang had seven trap- 
ping wires. The removal of these three in the Ruhotie and the 
discovery of the two in his hideout left him with two. If these 


were found, he would be unable to trap and this would force 
him to seek food in the Kikuyu reserve. This, in turn, would 
expose him to the Kikuyu guard, the regular security forces, 
and all the other dangers that beset a terrorist who leaves 
the forest. His only alternative would be to visit the new food 
store under the large fig tree in the Ruhotie valley, but there 
we were already waiting for him. 

The rain had barely stopped, the forest was still dripping, 
when a team led by Ruku was shot at. They did not see their 
enemy, but they had no doubt who it was. Spreading out 
quickly, they raced forward, but after running two hundred 
yards, Ruku trod on a stump and badly injured his foot. He 
fell while his men ran on out of sight. He was left alone, far 
behind, bandaging his foot with a strip of dirty cloth. As he 
sat there, he realised that he was not alone. Rising to his feet, 
his bandage still only half tied, he looked around. At that pre- 
cise moment he saw Kimathi walk out of a thick clump of bam- 
boo and start across a small clearing about thirty feet away. 
Kimathi's long, black, plaited hair was hanging down over his 
face and shoulders. His arms were hidden beneath his large 
leopard-skin coat and he was wet through from the rain. For a 
moment Ruku could not believe his eyes. Then he nervously 
lifted his Patchett automatic, aimed at Kimathi's moving body 
and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud click as the bolt 
sprang forward, but the weapon did not fire. Kimathi turned 
round, looked straight at Ruku, and instantly put his hands in 
front of his face as though to shield his eyes from a burst of 
bullets. Ruku grabbed the bolt of his gun and drew it back to 
reload, but Kimathi was already turning away and running for 
cover with his hands now crossed behind his head. Ruku aimed 
again and pulled the trigger, but still the weapon did not fire. 
Seconds later Kimathi had disappeared. 

With a heavy heart, Ruku limped away to rejoin his men. 
Dumbfounded, they listened as he told them his story. They 
stripped his weapon to find out why it had failed to fire, but 
they could find nothing wrong with it. They went back to the 


clearing where they examined Kimathfs tracks. They saw 
where Ruku had stood and where Kimatfai had dashed out of 
sight. After the rain his trail was clear, and they followed it 

We had never disputed the fact that Kimathi was abnor- 
mally lucky, but this was the last straw. After many months 
of toil and hardship, we had finally got him within our grasp, 
staring into the muzzle of a loaded sub-machine gun, and yet 
he had escaped unscathed. The effect of this mishap on the 
rest of the terrorists in our force was easy to foresee. They would 
have been convinced that he was immortal. Some would have 
regarded the incident as a sign that Ngai wanted him to remain 
alive. Fortunately, very fortunately, events followed this one 
in such quick succession that no one had time to brood. 

The first of Kimathfs two remaining traps was found by 
Gatf s team within a hundred yards of the spring at ten o'clock 
that morning. By two o'clock in the afternoon, we had located 
the second trap. As some of Gatfs men approached it, they 
heard Kimathfs high-pitched voice call out "Who is there?" He 
was standing about forty yards to one side of the trap hidden 
in the forest. One of our men shouted back "It is us." "Who?'* 
shouted Kimathi abruptly. "7 Kar," said our man, but Kimathi 
would have none of it and as he took to his heels he shouted 
to Wanjiru, "Mother of the Gods, be caught by yourself!" 

With Gatf s team chasing them, Kimathi, Maragua, and Wan- 
jiru ran through the forest. Then there was firing ahead. They 
had bumped into Gachenf s team coming up from the Zaina 
Valley. Gacheru shot at Maragua. Gacheru saw hi fall as 
though wounded, then rise and run on, carrying a rifle. Gitero 
fired a long burst at some shaking leaves, but it was one of 
Gacheru's men. Everything was happening quickly. Friend and 
foe were jumbled together, firing indiscriminately at everything 
that moved. Then Kimathi was seen again. He was standing be- 
hind a bush as one of our men named Mugo ran out. Kimathi 
shot with his revolver at point-blank range, but missed. Mugo 
shot back, but Kimathi had already slipped behind a tree and 
was off through the undergrowth. Ruku's team, who had been 


following Kimathfs tracks and getting closer and closer to him, 
heard the running gun battle and raced up to join in the melee. 
Within minutes they too saw Kimathi for a split second, shot at 
him, missed, and then chased after him. From time to time Ki- 
mathi and Maragua fired back at their pursuers. Nderitu, from 
Gati's team, armed only with a simi, caught up with Kimathi, 
and was about to slash him down from behind when Kimathi 
turned and fired at him. The bullet passed through Nderitu's 
skin coat, grazing his stomach. He fell back, too shocked to go 

Then Maragua broke away from Kimathi and was seen 
climbing a steep cliff towards the Moorlands, dragging his rifle 
along the ground by its muzzle. Bullets kicked up the earth 
round him, but he reached the top and disappeared over the 
brow. A few yards further on Wanjiru fell exhausted and was 
captured. She swore at her captors, spat at them, bit them, and 
kicked at them as they bound her up. Most of our men were 
tiring after the hot pace and crowded round her, but a few raced 
on after stopping momentarily to look at the woman who had 
outrun and outfought them before. Now Kimathi was alonel He 
had seen his woman fall, but he never paused to help her. He 
had seen Maragua break away with his only remaining rifle. He 
knew he could never find 7 Kar or Ngunyi again. Perhaps they 
had led his hunters on to him, and he did not want to see them 
again anyway. Like a frightened buck, gifted with that extra 
strength which only the fringe of death can provide, he fled on 
through the forest. The chase continued for another two miles. 
Now and then our men heard Kimathi ahead but he was gain- 
ing on them. For the last time he vanished into the forest. 

That evening, Wanjiru, wearing a dirty buckskin garment and 
still bleeding from bad cuts on her legs, was brought to Kinaini 
camp. She was lean, but wiry and very strong. For a Kikuyu 
girl, she had unusually sharp features and was not unattractive 
she had, after all, been chosen by her master from all the 
hundreds of Kikuyu girls who went into the forest at the begin- 
ning of the emergency. There were scars all over her body 


which bore witness to the terrible life she had led in the jungle. 
We began to question her about her master's movements. 

It turned out that Kimatfai had not been alone when Ruku 
saw him in the glade. Wanjiru and Maragua had been waiting 
for him under a tree only a short distance away. After his mi- 
raculous escape, he had come running up to them and told 
them what had happened. All three had then headed west to 
collect their belongings from their hideout before moving on to 
some other faraway area. 

"Why didn't you go back to the hideout last night?" asked 
Gati. "Kimathi refused," answered Wanjiru who now told how 
the three of them had left the hideout to check their two game 
traps. For some unexplained reason, Kimathi had decided to 
lie out in the forest for the night. Both she and Maragua had 
pleaded with hfrn to return because they were hungry and there 
was buck meat and wild nettle there to be eaten, but he was 
resolute in his refusal When the rain started the following 
morning, they had stood beneath a tree for shelter, and when 
the storm passed Kimathi told them to wait until he returned. 
Why he went, or where he went to, nobody knew, but it was 
during this lone journey that he had run into Ruku. 

All that night at Kinaim camp we tried to decide what Ki- 
mathi would do now that he was alone. We thought he might 
go back to his hideout to collect the food and some of his pos- 
sessions. The hideout was already ambushed. He might go to 
his food store in the Ruhotie valley. We were already waiting 
for him there. He might go to his letter boxes to look for Gitari, 
Ngunyi, and 7 Kar. We were there too. He might go to a prayer 
tree. We were watching every one that he was likely to visit 
He would be hungry, and knowing that his last two traps in 
Mihuro had been found, he might go to the Ruhutie area to 
look for Ngunyf s three traps. We had already removed them, 
and there were teams in the area. He could not boil wild nettle 
because his only cooking pot was in his hideout He could not 
trap meat because he had no traps. He could not live on honey 
because there was none in the area. Unless he tried to find 


food in the places where we were already waiting for him, he 
would be forced to take the biggest risk of all to go alone to 
steal food in the populated Kikuyu reserve. But that was the 
only course for which, apart from suicide, we had, as yet, no 
solution. This was the only point on which we needed Wanjiru's 
advice. At what point along the forest edge would Kimathi 
enter the Kikuyu reserve when hunger forced his hand? Wan- 
jiru knew her Kimathi well, and we knew he would confide in 
her far more than he would in any of his men. He had probably 
discussed with her already the route they would take to enter 
the reserve if the worst were to happen, but even if he had 
not done so, her opinion would be worth a great deal, for she 
knew which areas Kimathi thought were safe and which he 
thought were dangerous. 

Three female terrorists in our force were first put with 
Wanjiru in the hope that she would give them information that 
she would not give to the men, but despite many hours of talk, 
she would not co-operate with them. "There is nothing," she 
repeated, "which would make Kimathi go near the reserve." 
Then some of our men took her aside and tried to talk her round 
but all she would say to them was, "How could I know which 
route you would take if you were chased from here?" I then 
tried myself, but it was no good. She refused to look at me. As 
she spoke she gazed at the ground. She refused to eat or drink 
anything because, as she said, "You might have bewitched it." 
As a last resort, Gitahi and some of Kimathi's old guard were 
sent off to talk to her in a quiet, secluded place. They chatted 
for hours and hours in a circle round a little fire, then when 
the dawn's winds rose, they moved to a small bivouac where, 
huddled together, they continued the conversation. By day- 
break her old comrades had won her over. She named two 
possible places on the forest edge where Kimathi was most 
likely to cross into the Native Reserve. Instead of being stub- 
bornly loyal to her master as she had been the evening before, 
she now grew angry whenever anyone referred to her as "Ki- 
mathi's woman" and instead of refusing food, she drank some 



gruel and ate several pounds of meat She had suddenly come 
to hate Kimathi. This was a typical example of Mau Mau, psy- 
chology. For hours, or even weeks, a hardened supporter of 
Mau Mau will lean one way with utmost stubbornness, resisting 
every argument and every new idea, then, suddenly, some mi- 
nute factor produces a fantastic change and the victim leans the 
other way, often with equal stubbornness. Normally, that vital, 
trivial chink in their mental armour can only be found by per- 
sons of the same mentality. 

The two places on the forest edge where Kimathi would 
cross were, according to Wanjiru, a point opposite the Kikuyu 
village of Kihuro in Tetu Location, or a point near the Zaina 
River. As we could not risk putting our own terrorists at either 
of these places for fear that they would be shot at either by 
the security forces or the Kikuyu guard, we had no alternative 
to calling up conventional forces to cordon the forest edge at 
those two vital points. We sent an urgent signal to Nyeri early 
on the morning of the eighteenth of October, asking for help, 
and within two hours, Colonel Eric Hayes-Newington, opera- 
tional staff officer at Provincial Police Headquarters in Nyeri, 
arrived at Kinaini base camp. He brought with him a letter of 
encouragement from the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-Gen- 
eral Sir Gerald Lathbury. 

Some other teams were now reporting to Frost Camp. They 
were quickly rationed and moved down the mountain, but they 
were warned not to work as low down as the forest edge where 
Eric had been asked to establish a string of nighttime ambushes. 

Then for the first time we had a spare moment to examine 
Ruku's Patchett. The wrong type of 9-mm. ammunition had 
been issued to Ruku, and this had caused the jam that fateful 
afternoon when Kimathi walked in front of him. 

That night units of the Kings African Rifles and Kenya police 
took up ambush positions on the forest edge opposite Kihuro 
village, while units of Tribal Police and Tribal Police Reserve 
formed a stop line along the forest edge between Njogu-ini and 
the Zaina River. The eastern flank was secure. 


Kimathf s movements after his escape from the fight at Mi- 
huro show very clearly that he too knew his end was near. 
From one o'clock on the seventeenth of October, when he was 
last heard disappearing through the bamboo, until four o'clock 
the following afternoon, he did not rest once, not even long 
enough to drink. First he headed north towards the National 
Park track, then he swung sharply to the west and climbed up 
the mountain, then he turned south and raced on until he 
reached Chani^Hill, then he went east again, down the moun- 
tain, as though he was making for the Kikuyu reserve. When 
he was about eight miles from the reserve he went north again, 
thus completing a full circle. He did not cross the National 
Park track at any of his usual crossing places, nor did he choose 
a spot where the forest was thick and safe, but dashed across 
an open space where no terrorist would normally tread. Then 
back in the Tree Tops Salient, he stumbled on for several miles, 
still going north, until he reached the steep valley of the 
Mwathe. Finally, at about four o'clock on the afternoon of the 
eighteenth of October, after travelling non-stop for just under 
twenty-eight hours and covering a distance of almost eighty 
miles, he collapsed within half a mile of the forest edge at 
Njogu-ini. There he spent the night lying out in the ghostly 
forest as he had done more than a thousand times before, but 
this time he was absolutely alone. 

After dawn on the nineteenth of October, Kimathi made no 
effort to leave the forest edge. He crept along the fringe, eying 
the Kikuyu working in the Tetu Location, until he reached a 
point where he could look down on Karums-ini, the place where 
he had spent much of his youth. There he sat gazing across the 
hilly country dotted with wattle trees and banana plantations, 
and there he drank some water from a stream. All day he sat, 
but as night fell hunger drove him on. Before the moon rose, 
he crossed the deep ditch on the forest edge which had been 
dug earlier in the emergency to stop food carriers from taking 
supplies to the gangs in the forest, and for the first time in 
more than forty months he set foot in the Kikuyu reserve. He 


stripped some sugar cane and a few unripe bananas from a 
nearby plot and darted back to the forest to eat them. Our 
ambush parties should have spotted him, but his luck had not 
quite deserted him. 

By the morning of the twentieth of October several of our 
teams were moving on the forest edge, as by this time we had 
found the place where Kimathi had collapsed near Njogu-ini 
and it was clear that he was somewhere along the edge. Twice 
during the day Mac and I left the forest and circled round 
through the reserve to various points along the ditch to try to 
see that none of our teams reached the fringe and clashed with 
the army, police, and Tribal Police ambush parties. 

Events were now largely out of our hands. The machine 
could grind on without direction and late on the morning of 
the twentieth of October, I left the Aberdares and flew down to 
Nairobi. That afternoon my wife and I were presented to Her 
Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, at a garden party at Govern- 
ment House. It was, as the Americans would say, quite a con- 

I had planned to spend forty-eight hours in Nairobi and re- 
turn to the forest at dawn on the twenty-second of October, 
but Kimathi's luck did not hold out long enough for that. After 
wandering silently along the forest edge on the twentieth, he 
again crossed the ditch that night. Again he passed our guards 
who did not see him in the darkness and again he stripped some 
foodstuffs from a small plot, this time deeper in the reserve. 
But at 6:30 A.M. on Sunday the twenty-first, as he was sneaking 
back to the forest with the food he had stolen, he was seen by 
a party of six Kikuyu tribal policemen just as he was recrossing 
the ditch. While trying to climb out of the ditch into the forest, 
he was challenged by a tribal policeman called Ndirangu 
Mau. Kimathi ran down the ditch. Ndirangu fired three shots 
at him. Two missed. The third knocked him down. He got up 
again, climbed out of the ditch and rolled into the forest, Ki- 
mathi could not get far; he was found almost immediately, still 
wearing his leopard-skin coat, lying under a bush a few yards 


inside the forest He had been severely wounded in the thigh. 
His revolver was found strapped to his body under his skin 

The three shots were clearly heard by our teams near the 
forest edge. They knew it could only mean that Kimathi had 
been seen. They quickly spread out in the undergrowth, paral- 
lel to the forest edge in case he had escaped and was running 
towards them. But Kimathi did not appear. He was taken first 
to Ihururu, the chiefs centre, from which he had escaped right 
at the beginning of the emergency. From there he was removed 
to hospital in Nyeri. 

A strong cordon of police was thrown round the Nyeri hospi- 
tal, not to prevent Kimathi's escape, but to stop crowds of angry 
Kikuyu, whose sons and daughters and mothers and fathers had 
been murdered by his fanatical followers, from dragging him 
out and tearing him limb from limb. And so the hunt of Dedan 
Kimathi ended. Kimathi was operated on that afternoon and 
later removed to the Nyeri prison hospital where a platoon of 
the Police General Service Unit mounted guard over him. As 
the days passed his condition improved steadily and within 
three weeks he was judged medically fit to stand his trial. 

The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Kenya, sitting 
at Nyeri. It had a magnetic influence upon people of all races 
in the colony. Everyday the courtroom was crowded with 
curious spectators who were anxious to see what Kimathi 
looked like. As each witness filed into the witness-box, Kimathi 
stared at him in the same way he had stared at his victims and 
enemies in the forest before. 

The hearing lasted many days and argument followed argu- 
ment as both the crown prosecutor and the counsel for the 
defence left no leaf unturned in their opposing roles. In a 
hushed courtroom, the judge ultimately summed up the evi- 
dence. Then three African accessors gave their opinions. They 
were unanimously agreed that Kimathi was guilty. Finally the 
judge found Kimathi guilty and sentenced him to be hanged. 
The prisoner showed no emotion. It had been a fair and 


thorough trial by any standard. It was quite a contrast with 
his "trials" in the forest. 

Kimathi was then removed from Nyeri prison and taken 
under strong escort to the main Nairobi gaol. There he re- 
mained while his appeal was argued and dismissed. Four and 
a half months later he was executed, 

He was hardly a political figure, but he was a criminal of 
the first rank. It was appropriate that he should fall at last to 
a party of Kikuyu tribal policemen, representatives of that gal- 
lant body of tribal loyalists who had stood firm with govern- 
ment and decency when the star of Mau Mau seemed to be 
rising. It was a final illustration of the great part that the 
Kikuyu people themselves played in the defeat of Mau Mau. 
The young Kikuyu children of the future would be able to 
stand outside their homes and look up at the distant mountain 
and say: "That is where an evil past is buried." 

After visiting Kimathi in the hospital at Nyeri, I went 
straight back into the forest to unwind our operation and stand 
down the oddest army that had ever fought for Queen and 
country in the history of the British Empire. Rumors were sent 
out to bring all our teams back to Kinaini base. During the 
next forty-eight hours they trickled into camp tired out and 
weary. Gati was almost the last to arrive, lagging far behind 
the rest of his men, walking slowly, picking at his teeth with 
a piece of stick. He was deep in thought 

When I saw him coming I went over and took him aside. We 
sat beneath the shade of a big tree to talk. "Well, it's all finished, 
Gati," I said. "Yes, Kinyanjui, it finished as Kingori prophesied 
in the tenth month before the rains for millet planting began." 
Then I remembered Kingorfs words in prison some six months 
before. The prophecy had been fulfilled. 

The last ambush team from the prayer trees was now coming 
into our camp. Of all Kimathfs prayer trees, those mugumo 
trees to which he had made his pilgrimages in search of his 
god Ngai, there was one which had attracted him more than 
the rest Perhaps its shape or its surroundings fitted more ac- 


curately with the mugumo tree he had seen in his dream when 
"God had taken him by the right hand and led him to it." 

This tree stood in the part of the forest which Mau Mau 
called Kahiga-ini. It was an enormous tree with a huge trunk 
and heavy, hanging branches which reached almost to the 
ground. It had stood there for many years, probably since the 
turn of the century. Now the team came over to make its last 
report the mugumo tree had fallenl